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Meanwhile, over at Twitter, they’re on the precipice of something

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Shapshak is editor-in-chief of Stuff.co.za and executive director of Scrolla.Africa

Can ‘foolish enough’ new CEO Linda Yaccarino clean up the damage left by Elon Musk, amid the hype of Facebook’s (very poor) Twitter clone, Threads?

The only thing worse than being spoken about, Elon Musk is discovering at Twitter, is not being spoken about.

The owner of Twitter has mangled his purchase so badly, having fired so many staff, cut back on server hosting, refused to pay outstanding rent and hosting fees and alienated the advertisers who support it. 

Many commentators believe this caused server instability and is the reason why Musk instituted the 600-tweet limit last month. Although he increased this “temporary emergency measure” and blamed it on “extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation” purportedly by artificial intelligence services trying to build up databases of content.

But that latest brouhaha seemed enough to tip the scales for frustrated Twitter users, who appeared to flock in droves to the newly launched Twitter clone from Instagram, called Threads. It is appallingly basic. You have to see all of the, er, threads because there is no way to only see the people you follow. You can only search for usernames, nothing else, while the defining punctuation that Twitter introduced to the world, the hashtag, hasn’t been coded yet.

But 100 million people signed up for it in the first five days and posted 95 million, er, threads, says a triumphant Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Nobody is talking about managing disinformation or that tricky little thing called content moderation.

Part of that large sign-up figure might be the ease of downloading a companion app to Instagram. If you already have the picture-sharing app on your phone, it takes just one push of a button to sign in.

I haven’t had either Facebook or Instagram on my phone for about six years now, so I downloaded the latter to have a look at it again. It’s as awful as the last time I looked, in late February. For every one or two posts by people I follow, I was shown one advert and one “suggested” post (often really just another advert). So, half of what I saw was advertising. That’s a pretty shocking user experience.

Give Threads enough time and Zuckerberg will do the same. But by then, many of those adventurous 100 million users will be long gone.

Where did most Joburgers post their videos of Monday’s surprise snow? Twitter or Instagram. Say no more.

Meanwhile, over at Twitter, it has found a CEO “foolish enough” to take over from owner Musk, but it is by no means out of trouble. Last month it emerged that US advertising revenue had plunged 59% for the five weeks from 1 April to the first week in May, bringing in just $88m, according to an internal presentation reported on by the New York Times.

New CEO Linda Yaccarino is a “long-time Madison Avenue power player”, as the paper described her. Musk poached her from a $13bn business as chair of global advertising and partnerships at US media giant, NBCUniversal.

An advertising insider, Yaccarino has a lot of damage control to do at Twitter, where Musk has let 75% of its staff go, stopped paying office rentals and Google server hosting, and scared off the only source of revenue – advertisers.

In her first staff email, Yaccarino proclaimed that “Twitter is on a mission to become the world’s most accurate real-time information source and a global town square for communication”.

She has unfortunately continued with her boss’ penchant for hyperbole, adding: “We’re on the precipice of making history.”

Twitter certainly is on the precipice of something. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kevin Leo-Smith says:

    There seems to be a coordinated effort in the global media to discover existential user issues at Twitter. As a long time and daily user nothing has changed for me (and I suspect millions of others like me). The only change is not being able to use Tweetbot that used to cull ads for me and sync my timelines on different devices. Both features I miss.

  • bigbad jon says:

    The ‘Twitter-killer’ Threads will go the same way the ‘Tesla-killers’ did. Fade into obscurity. Zuckerberg’s trick was the Instagram link. To quit Threads you have to quit Instagram too..

  • Craig King says:

    I like Twitter. Good experience and I use it mainly as a news source. Threads will be pwned by the three letter agencies while Twitter now flies free. Thanks Elon.

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