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Hanging by a thread

Will the new kid on the social media block lead to the collapse of Twitter?

By James Evelegh

Hanging by a thread

Such has been the damage inflicted by Elon Musk on Twitter that the arrival last week of a knight in shining armour with a direct rival – Threads – was widely savoured, even though the knight in question was Mark Zuckerberg, whose Meta / Facebook has been an over-collector (and leaker) of personal information and an idle bystander as its platform was used and abused by purveyors of disinformation and hate.

One of the respondents to our first poll of the most influential people in media, in 2021, said of Zuckerberg: “I suspect that one of the most powerful men who has ever lived really is as clueless and conscience-free as his public appearances suggest.”

Musk’s short tenure of Twitter has managed to do wonders for everyone else’s reputation except his own.

Will Threads prevail?

It racked up 100m users in its first few days (Twitter has 250m – and declining – active users), so would appear to be poised to overtake it in user numbers. Furthermore, Twitter’s ad revenue has been in freefall ever since he took over as blue chip advertisers blanched at the prospect of appearing alongside the swivel-eyed rantings of some of the extremists Musk allowed back on the platform.

Musk is clearly rattled and has sued Threads for theft of intellectual property (“Competition is fine, cheating is not”, he tweeted) and has issued a number of bizarre challenges to Zuckerberg. His legal case is reportedly flimsy at best and one has to doubt that they’ll ever appear in a cage-fight together or, even more weirdly, engage in combat by ruler.

Yet, despite Musk’s best efforts, all is not lost for Twitter.

As John Naughton notes in the Observer, “there is one particular class of user who doesn’t seem to have joined (the exodus from Twitter) – professional journalists and politicians, for whom Twitter seems to remain an absolutely must-have service.”

Naughton concludes his article: “In our current media ecosystem, if Twitter had not been invented, someone would have to invent it now. The tweet has become the contemporary version of the soundbite. And if Musk does eventually succeed in driving Twitter into bankruptcy, some smart political operator will buy it and make something from its smoking ruins.”

So, Twitter will probably prevail, with or, more likely, without its new owner.

You can catch James Evelegh’s regular column in the InPubWeekly newsletter, which you can register to receive here.