Elon Musk’s U-turn to go ahead with his purchase of Twitter is part of his plans to turn the platform into an “everything app”, the billionaire entrepreneur has said.
As news of his decision to move forward with the takeover deal broke after months of public fighting with the platform – and just weeks before legal action over the matter – Mr Musk tweeted that the purchase of the site was “an accelerator to create X, the whole application”.
The Tesla boss has spoken widely in the past about his support for the idea of an “everything app” – a single place where users can access most, if not all, of their favorite online services and utilities.
This follows its previous commitments to allow absolute freedom of speech on the platform and to remove all spam or bot accounts in an effort to improve conversation and make Twitter the “place of digital city” of the world.
In China, a version of the whole app idea already exists in WeChat, which started life as a messaging platform similar to WhatsApp but has since become a mini-internet within a single app – allowing users to do everything from sharing social media posts with friends, getting news, making mobile payments, booking restaurants and ordering taxis.
Nothing similar exists in the West.
Social media expert and industry commentator Matt Navarra said he was unconvinced by the proposal.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he told the PA news agency.
“Super apps, as they’re called in the industry, aren’t a new thing. They’ve been hugely successful in Asia, but haven’t really caught on elsewhere.
“Could Twitter be part of a great app that lets you shop for goods, chat with friends, get updates, book a taxi, etc.? Sure. Elon Musk can- Will he make it work? Maybe. Will Elon really make it? Who knows. He seems to have commitment issues.
Another key area of focus would be the platform’s approach to free speech, particularly as key online safety regulations draw closer in the UK and countries around the world.
The Tesla and SpaceX boss has previously said he strongly believes in absolute freedom of speech, as anything not illegal should be allowed to stay online, and confirmed he would allow banned accounts, such as that of former US President Donald Trump. , to help fulfill Twitter’s mission to be an unfiltered digital public square.
This position would be likely to face significant problems once the Online Safety Bill comes into force in the UK.
While the bill pledged to protect free speech through protections around content of democratic importance and news publishers, it will require platforms not only to remove illegal content, but also all topics that have been designated as “legal but harmful”, which is likely to be content related to abuse or harassment, among other things.
With hefty fines and even the prospect of being banned from the UK as potential penalties, Mr Musk will likely have to soften his stance on absolute free speech if he wants Twitter to stay on the good side of regulators.
Former Twitter vice-chairman Bruce Daisley told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it was an “incredibly simplistic approach” and unlikely to make Twitter more profitable.
“I’m not convinced it would be (more profitable). If you opened a newspaper and it had page after page of toxic articles and toxic images, I think that would discourage you, to some extent,” he said.
Many current Twitter employees would also be alarmed by Mr. Musk’s proposed approach, an issue that industry analyst Mike Proulx says needs to be addressed by the billionaire if he is to succeed at the helm of the company. company.
“Twitter remains an important part of our culture, regardless of the ongoing drama surrounding this one-time, one-time, one-time deal,” he said.
“But if Musk takes over the company, his number one mission must be to earn and retain the trust of Twitter employees. This is no small task because he will start from a significant trust deficit.
“Twitter’s future is bleak without an engaged employee base and there’s a lot of repair work to be done there.”