Twitter doesn’t cost any money. That simple fact turned into a popular meme many years ago. People share screenshots of particularly funny or enriching tweets on Twitter. “This website is free”, they write, seemingly incredulous, that for this great entertainment program they really don’t have to pay with money, but only with their data and their attention.
That will change soon. At a virtual event Twitter has announced a number of new functions for investors. This includes, among other things, “Super Follows”. Anyone who thinks that their jokes, scoops and comments are worth more than a few likes and retweets can try to make money with them. Followers then have to pay to continue reading.
That is less hopeless than it sounds. Because in the USA in particular, many accounts have millions of fans. If only a fraction of it is ready to take out a subscription, it quickly becomes a lucrative business model. In addition, Twitter has long been more than lukewarm jokes in 280 characters. You can string dozens of tweets in so-called threads and analyze political events. Others spread exclusive news there or, there is also that, are actually funny.
Twitter wants to protect women from verbal violence
Some journalists are already dreaming of itwhat it would be like to be able to live on your own tweets. But that’s just one of many planned innovations. In addition, Twitter wants to enable users to organize themselves in closed groups and to talk about certain topics. This is reminiscent of Facebook’s group function, which has fundamentally changed not only the largest social network, but also all communication on the Internet: The newsfeed is becoming less important, conversations are moving to closed rooms.
For more than a decade, Twitter has failed to protect women in particular from harassment and threats. That should finally change: The so-called security mode recognizes when users receive a large number of replies or messages in a short time that Twitter classifies as aggressive or offensive. These accounts are then automatically blocked or muted so that the hatred does not even reach the target persons.
Dorsey defied Trump
The latest announcements fit in with Twitter’s new self-image. The company was once the would-be challenger to Facebook, who watched helplessly as its big blue brother swallowed Whatsapp and Instagram and became the most important communication infrastructure in the world. Facebook expanded, Twitter stagnated. But last year the platform reinvented itself – politically and functionally.
While Mark Zuckerberg stayed on a cuddle course with Donald Trump for a long time, Twitter boss Jack Dorsey dared to confront the US President. The company flagged Trump’s lies and put out his calls for violence. The message was clear: Trump may be our most important user, but our rules apply to everyone. This angered many Republicans, but earned Twitter respect from people who don’t believe Trump has the basic right to a virtual mega-microphone.
The platform also developed technically. With Kayvon Beykpour, 2018 was not only a new product manager, but also a new pace of development. Every month, Twitter announced new functions and acquisitions. With Spaces, for example, a promising clubhouse clone is in the beta phase and should start soon. The company recently swallowed the newsletter provider Revue and could thus compete with the Substack email platform – and Facebook, which is also working on a newsletter function.
Explain the world in tweets – and make a living from it
Most people in Germany don’t care about Twitter. They only took notice of the platform when Donald Trump once again brought up particularly great nonsense. But he lost both his position and his Twitter account in January. What remains in the eyes of many is a bubble in which the Berlin-Mitte bohemian announces their clubhouse talks or journalists turn inside jokes into “This is how the Internet laughs” articles.
But Twitter generates headlines that go beyond Trump. After the biggest provocateur was kicked out, usage remained constant. Politicians and celebrities speak out there, and a lot of the news is based on tweets. People who otherwise rarely have their say in the media can share their point of view on Twitter. The platform will never be as big as Facebook, as hip as Instagram, or as creative as TikTok. But just like Snapchat, Twitter has found its niche that includes a few hundred million people. And maybe there will soon be the first Twitter professionals who can be paid to explain the world in 280 characters.