While Mark Zuckerberg burns billions at the metaverse’s alter, a much more practical opportunity directly in his company’s lane could provide much more attainable short-term success: Twitter is experiencing an identity crisis under new owner Elon Musk.
Despite signs that its social media business isn’t what it used to be, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram networks are undeniably massive, with well-established revenue fundamentals. Analysts would prefer that the company and Zuckerberg spend their time and focus on making the most of what they have already achieved in contemporary social media, which seems wise even if it ends up being an exercise in managing a long decline into irrelevance. After all, a long and well-managed death is often a more profitable enterprise than a massively expensive shift in focus to an unproven technology like VR.
Meta is also very experienced and arguably quite good at one thing in particular: cloning its competitors’ features. That’s not to say it always gets it right — it’s currently struggling to capture the essence of what makes TikTok so appealing to its users, and has faced setbacks when attempting to replicate features like its organic out-of-network discovery model in Instagram. Despite setbacks, Meta has repeatedly demonstrated tenacity and resilience in developing, testing, and releasing features that give its competitors an advantage (Stories and Snap being probably the stickiest and most product-transforming example of this).
Meanwhile, Twitter is facing an existential crisis as a result of Elon Musk’s successful (if reluctant) $44 billion leveraged buyout. Over the weekend following the transaction’s close, reports surfaced that Musk had assembled a motley crew of hangers-on and well-heeled friends to help advise his company’s overhaul. He’s considering resurrecting the TikTok video platform Vine, as well as charging for the blue check that’verifies’ users on the network.
People are already thinking about what will happen if Twitter stops serving the function that arguably drives much of its current use: acting as a kind of town square, and one where media personalities, in particular, feel they can get the attention of, and engage in conversation with, their peers, and with influential personalities who have the ability to amplify their voices.
Existing alternatives, such as Mastodon, are seeing increased user interest in the aftermath of the Twitter deal, but they are unlikely to reach any kind of critical mass in the long run. Tumblr is a dark horse candidate to fill the void left by Twitter, especially if it can achieve current owner Matt Mullenweg’s goal of becoming both a distribution network and a media content platform.
However, Meta, with its existing social pedigree and network dynamics, has the best chance of replicating what led to Twitter’s current user base – and also growing it – while also turning it into a money-making enterprise.
Facebook hasn’t attempted to replicate Twitter, but in 2008, Zuckerberg offered $500 million to buy the network out. You could argue that Meta’s sub-400 million userbase (of which only about half are considered ‘daily active users’) is unimportant in comparison to Facebook’s nearly 2 billion daily active users and Instagram’s 1.2 billion monthly active users.
Twitter, on the other hand, is unique in the composition of its network and most-followed users, which include billionaires, politicians, and powerful media figures. It’s a desirable audience, and one that can most likely be monetized — especially by Meta, the company that is arguably the best at monetizing digital consumer products in history.
Read more; ELON MUSK OWNS TWITTER,THE STORY SO FAR
Building a viable Twitter alternative, on the other hand, would expose Meta to the perilous landscape of content moderation — a landscape that Zuckerberg’s retreat into his legless virtual world appears to be specifically designed to avoid.
I doubt Zuck has the stomach to launch a Twitter free of the mountain of debt that has settled firmly on the current version’s chest, but it would be an interesting place for Meta to channel its significant resources that has a lot more historical viability than the metaverse.