Will Twitter one day become the Western version of WeChat, the Chinese “super-application” of the Tencent group? In a Q&A session with Twitter employees, Elon Musk put forward this hypothesis.
Where are we in the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk? That’s a very good question. With the financial authorities and his fans, Elon Musk casts doubt on his final intentions. He denounces Twitter’s lies about his numbers and suggests that it is impossible to redeem Twitter in these conditions. However, on June 16, 2022, Elon Musk agreed to participate in a roundtable with Twitter employees to answer their questions. Here, there does not seem to be any question of withdrawing the offer (which is not possible anyway, Elon Musk is committed and would have to pay compensation). What will really happen to this acquisition? Hard to say, but Elon Musk has clearly not turned the page.
The meeting between Elon Musk and his potential future employees was long and could be followed by a second discussion, as Elon Musk promised at the start of the exchanges. If you are familiar with English, its transcription is available on the Vox site. Otherwise, Numerama offers you some summaries of the statements of the billionaire.
Elon Musk loves Twitter
The first question posed to Elon Musk was “Why do you like Twitter? And why do you want to buy Twitter? » Elon Musk then offered a fairly long answer in which he declares his love for the social network, a place where he learns a lot while having fun. Elon Musk also embarks on an old-fashioned critique of press releases, arguing that Twitter allows you to bypass this and speak directly to people (he takes the opportunity to gently tackle the media, who see everything “of a negative spectrum” and who don’t have “almost never” raison).
Elon Musk also details his absolutist vision of freedom of expression, which he describes as the possibility of being able to declare anything you want, including obscene things, provided that everyone does not see them. It remains to be seen how. Making algorithms transparent like Elon Musk will certainly not encourage users to retweet only benevolent messages (even if Elon Musk offers to verify identity with a bank card, in exchange for the blue badge).
Next, Elon Musk imagines the things that need to be changed on Twitter. Its first target: the 7.8 billion people who are not on the social network, who must be targeted. Elon Musk wants to make the platform more ” comfortable ” for its users and improve monetization options, to encourage creators not to just link to their YouTube channel. Statements that are common sense and reassuring about his vision.
A Western WeChat, really?
The last part of his answer is, for once, a little more surprising. Elon Musk takes the example of WeChat, which should be imitated to make Twitter indispensable:
“We basically want to address why people love Twitter, why aren’t more people using Twitter? And why are people turning away from Twitter? And if we can satisfy those reasons, then they’ll use Twitter more, and they’ll get more from the service. And, you know, if I think of, for example, WeChat in China, which is actually a great, great app, there’s no WeChat movement outside of China. And I think there is a real opportunity to create that. In China, you basically live on WeChat, because it’s very useful in your daily life. And I think if we could achieve that, or even come close to it with Twitter, that would be a huge success. I hope that’s the case — I really expanded on the subject. I would be happy to expand on either of these points. »
If you’re not familiar with WeChat, it’s a must-have app in China (literally must-have, it’s very hard to live or travel there without it). WeChat allows to communicate (in the same way as WhatsApp), to obtain navigation information, to pay or to receive money (QR Codes of WeChat have replaced the cash there). The app also allows you to get information, make official requests (Tencent, its parent company, is close to the government and authorizes, for example, to start divorce proceedings in the application), to meet people or to make an appointment with the doctor. WeChat is indispensable to Chinese life, as Elon Musk says.
However, one cannot help but think that the comparison poses a problem. Already, remember that in China, Twitter is banned. The Beijing version of freedom of expression is light years away from that of Elon Musk, who through Tesla and his other activities has close ties with the Chinese authorities. Then, is the WeChat model really transferable to the United States or Europe, where we are used to using several services and where big players like Google or Apple are already regularly accused of monopolistic abuses? If Elon Musk really tends towards that, Twitter may be in trouble. One can however hope that this WeChat example is only there to indicate a direction, but that Twitter will never go that far. Either way, Elon Musk really wants to change things (provided he doesn’t step down in the meantime).
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