A eulogy

Originally on cohost

It sucks that Twitter’s leadership never figured out how to monetize what they had to such a degree that the company and by extension the product, network and relationships captured on it have remained an acquisition target. And now have been enclosed by someone with nothing better to do.

It’s not surprising. Twitter’s always been a hot mess internally and externally.

But it is disappointing because Twitter does (did) a good job of forming communities of interest and helping folks find new adjacencies and perspectives. You create an account, you follow some people, you post about stuff and you find people who post about the same things. You follow (and unfollow) people and get a sense of them. Not just an Instagram facade, but a fairly raw braindump of their life. Their struggles, successes and vibes. You can fall into programming languages twitter and find everyone’s trans and presents that as part of who they are. You see peoples sports teams and their local politics.

Amidst the attention and outrage machine there are people to be found and relationships to be formed. Not just brands and politicians being messy at each other and using yet another platform to retrench their microphone.

Twitter’s success has always been in elevating voices you usually wouldn’t hear. People can get their five minutes of fame and be a one hit wonder for that one time they dunked on a politician or posted cell phone footage of what just happened. Giving access to eyewitness media and accounts as events unfolded presented a challenge to established media organizations and arbiters of truth.

Maybe it was an impossible dream to monetize that chaos well enough to insulate it from enclosure. Twitter had to shut down the 3rdparty client interfaces because of one play to enclose it from the outside in, and that was certainly a death nail moment after which Twitter was on the fearful defensive.

Facebook succeeded as a business - for a while at least - because they captured structured data about their users that could be directly fed into ads targeting. “what’s happening” and media upload doesn’t let a company target nearly as well; privacy concerns notwithstanding.

The thing that big platforms like Twitter and TikTok succeed at is bridging cultural boundaries. Maybe retreat into a dark forest of forums was inevitable from a moderation and culture war perspective. But loss of the big microphone and the wide platform on which to find and make new connections is a shame. Even if it was always a clown car in a gold mine.