By Zoe Kleinman Technology Journalist
This is the moment when no one was sure it would ever happen: after months of drama, Elon Musk announces that his $44 billion (28 trillion 964 billion 128 million FCFA) deal to take over Twitter is concluded.
He announces the big news on Twitter himself, of course changing his bio to read “Chief Twit” and saying “the bird is free”. Job done, as far as he is concerned.
There’s been no official confirmation yet, and the silence from Twitter HQ so far has been rather deafening.
But maybe there’s no one to send that email – Mr Musk has reportedly already fired chief executive Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and chief legal and policy officer Vijaya Gadde, while the profile LinkedIn chairman Bret Taylor suggests he’s no longer with the company either.
So what might Mr. Musk’s Twitter look like?
“A digital public square”
Mr Musk addressed potential advertisers in an uncharacteristically humble message posted to the site on Thursday. He talks about buying Twitter because he wants to “try to help humanity”, and says he wants “civilization to have a digital place”. He also accepted that his mission could fail.
The fact that he wrote specifically to those who advertise on Twitter suggests that he intends, for now at least, to stick to his digital advertising business model.
And that’s despite the fact that those revenues are starting to dwindle for giants like Alphabet, owner of Google, and Meta, owner of Facebook, as the global economic downturn takes hold and companies find themselves with less money. to spend on marketing.
In the past, he has spoken pompously about his desire to ease moderation, so that more voices can be heard more freely (Twitter has long been accused of favoring left-liberal posts, which he denies).
Could he decide to bring back some of the most controversial tweeters, banned under the previous administration – former US President Donald Trump (who has already said he has no desire to return), or more recently, his friend Kanye West? I’m not so sure.
Mr Musk is now offering a more restrained view, saying the platform must remain “welcoming”, respect national laws and not become “a hellscape”.
Mr. West was banned for anti-Semitism and Mr. Trump was “permanently suspended” for inciting violence – sounds like a bit of hell to me.
Spam and super app tips
Mr Musk has railed against the number of spam and bot accounts he says are invading the site. Twitter has always disputed its claims that the official figure is far too low.
He could order a mass cull, though that would likely affect the all-important follower count, which could be an unpopular first step.
Perhaps the most intriguing hint he’s made so far is that his new venture is the starting point for “X, the everything app.”
He never dwelt on the subject, but many suggested he was referring to the creation of some kind of “super app” modeled on WeChat in China – a one-stop-shop for social media, messaging , finances, food orders – in a nutshell, the administration of daily life.
The West does not yet have such an application, although it can be said that Meta’s WhatsApp and even Facebook Messenger are slowly turning into multi-function services.
Mr. Musk has made no secret of his love of cryptocurrencies and Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, is a proud investor in his vision (from the press release I received just after 05:00 BST).
Could we see a Twitter system allowing businesses to accept cryptocurrency payments? It would be a hit for crypto fans and an eyesore for those who warn that crypto remains a risky choice, unregulated and therefore unprotected in case something goes wrong.
What we know of Mr. Musk is that he is visionary, volatile, ambitious and creative. We can guarantee the changes will start rolling in – and already some Twitter fans are saying the leadership change will scare them away.
“We wanted flying cars, but we got 140 characters,” says investor Peter Thiel of the tech industry, long before the “expectations versus reality” meme became reality. With Mr. Musk, we may well have both.