An image of a chunky version of the Twitter logo by Roman Martyinuk on Unsplash.

A series of poorly-thought out decisions is making Twitter worse by the day.

On February 4, 2023, I posted a thread on Twitter about the mess that Elon Musk has made of his social media platform. Here is the thread:

“Recently, Chief Twit removed access to Twitter’s API without any warning to app creators. It appears he wants to charge them $1000 to access it. Charging a high amount of money for what was previously given for free is NOT a good way to convince people to pay you.”

“Recently, I tweeted that if Chief Twit could not compel app creators to pay him money, he will attempt to extract funding from Twitter users. He appears to be interested in doing that through Twitter Blue Verified subscriptions. I suspected this would happen.”

“Right now, there is no information regarding what Twitter Blue Verified users would have to do to get – some unknown amount of money – via ad revenue. The mechanism for how they get paid is also unknown. It feels sketchy.”

“Content creators should not have to pay money to a company in order to – maybe – be paid by them for the content they create. That doesn’t happen on YouTube or Twitch. Most podcasting apps don’t require payment to include your show. Chief Twit has things backwards.”

“My prediction is that, if Chief Twit feels he is not gaining enough revenue through those who already pay for Twitter Blue Verified, he will instead target “regular” users. He might demand payment for people to access and use their Twitter account(s).”

It appears my prediction is coming true, and that’s not good for anyone who uses Twitter.

On January 19, Engadget posted an article titled “Twitter’s new developer terms ban third-party clients”. From the article:

In case there was any doubt about Twitter’s intentions of cutting off the developers of third-party apps, the company has quietly updated its developer agreement to make clear that app makers are no longer permitted to create their own clients.

The “restrictions” section of Twitter’s developer agreement was updated Thursday with a clause banning “use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute service or product to the Twitter Applications.” The addition is the only substantive change to the 5,000-word agreement.

The change confirms what makers of many popular Twitter clients have suspected in recent days: that third-party Twitter services are no longer permitted under Elon Musk’s leadership.

On February 1, TechCrunch posted an article titled: “Twitter to end free access to its API in Elon Musk’s latest monetization push”. From the article:

Twitter will discontinue offering free access to the Twitter API starting February 9 and will launch a paid version, the Elon Musk-owned microblogging website said as it looks for more avenues to monetize the platform.

In a series of tweets, the Twitter Developer account said the firm will be ending support for both legacy v1.1 and the new v2 of its Twitter API’s. It did not immediately say how much it plans to charge for API usage.

(NOTE: a few days later, it was revealed that Twitter wanted to charge app creators $1,000 to access Twitter’s API).

On February 3, The Verge posted an article titled: “Elon Musk will share Twitter ad revenue – but only with creators who pay for Twitter Blue / Pay $8 a month to get… something.” From the article:

Elon Musk says that Twitter will start sharing revenue from reply-thread ads with creators who are subscribed to Twitter Blue Verified. (According to Musk, “legacy” verified marks will be going away in “a few months.”) He says the program will start today, though there are currently few details about how it will work.

Currently, subscribing to Blue will cost you $8 per month if acquired directly via its site or $11 per month from Apple’s App Store or Google Play, but the cheapest version is an annual subscription directly from Twitter for $84. It is unclear how many viral tweets it would take to pay that off, but it could be difficult given Twitter’s rocky relationship with advertisers right now.

On February 8, @TwitterDev posted a short thread about some updates. From the thread:

“We have been busy with some updates to the Twitter API so you can continue to build and innovate with us.

“We’re also excited to announce an extension of the current free Twitter API access through February 13. Here’s what we’re shipping then [Thread emoji]

“Paid basic access that offers low level API usage, and access to Ads API for a $100 monthly fee.”

“A new form of free access will be introduced as this is extremely important to our ecosystem – limited to Tweet creation of up to 1,500 Tweets per month for a single authenticated user token, including Login with Twitter.”

“Also, on February 13, we will deprecate the Premium API. If you’re subscribed to Premium, you can apply for Enterprise to continue using these endpoints.”

“This is a new chapter for the Twitter API to increase quality, reduce spam, and enable a thriving ecosystem. We appreciate your patience as we implement these changes and we can’t wait to see what you build next!

“Stay tuned for more information on continued Twitter API access”.

In my opinion, it appears that Elon Musk realized that third-party app creators, including the apps that were not charging money for people to use it – were not going to pay $1,000 to keep their app on Twitter. This thread from @TwitterDev appears to be a compromise, of sorts.

That said, if I do some quick math (with a calculator): $100/month x 12 months = $1,200. I figure the people who make third-party Twitter apps have already realized that this “deal” will cost them even more than the original $1,000 price Elon Musk originally proposed.

On February 8, The Hollywood Reporter posted an article titled: “Twitter Places Limits on Tweet Frequency, Impacting Business and Individual Accounts” From the article:

Twitter on Wednesday began placing limits on the frequency of tweets an account can send, with users operating both individual and business accounts receiving error messages about exceeding the “daily limit for sending Tweets.”

The company, under Elon Musk, is now placing limits to the number of direct messages and tweets that a user can send per day, according to a page on Twitter’s Help Center site. The daily limit is 2,400, but the site notes “the daily update limit is further broken down into smaller units for semi-hourly intervals.” Retweets also count toward that limit.

It is not immediately clear how many tweets are allowed within the “semi-hourly intervals” and individual and business accounts – including The Hollywood Reporter‘s Twitter account – received the error message when attempting to tweet more than once in at least an hour.

On February 9, Twitter announced, via its @TwitterBlue account, that it is releasing 4,000 character Tweets to Twitter Blue subscribers. This information appear to be located on the @TwitterBlue account – and nowhere else (to my knowledge).

The Verge reported that there are a few limitations to the feature (beside the big one that it’s behind a paywall). If your tweet is over the standard 280 characters, you can’t save it as a draft or schedule it for later. However, most other normal features should work as usual – you can still add hashtags or pictures, and non-Blue subscribers will still be able to interact with the posts as normal.

My question is: How does the creation of a 4,000 character thread help Twitter Blue Verified users to earn revenue from reply-thread ads? It seems like a waste of time for big companies to sift through 4,000 words in order to figure out the best part to respond to with one of their ads. To me, it feels like Elon Musk wants Twitter Blue Verified users to believe they can make money from ads. But in practice? It seems the 4,000 character thread makes that harder.

Today, I’m seeing some of the people I follow posting screenshots that say: “You are unable to follow more people at this time. Learn More.”

February 9: UPDATE: PCWorld posted an article titled: “Twitter expands character limits from 280 to 4,000 (and promptly breaks)” From the article:

…Twitter has been a major trash fire for quite some time now. Whether they’re leaking data from 200 million users or slamming third-party clients with the ban hammer, the social media platform is the virtual wild, wild, west. Last night, shortly after rolling out the new character count and controversial API changes, Twitter suffered from widespread technical issues that prevented folks from tweeting or following new people for several hours…

February 9: UPDATE: The Verge posted an article titled: “Elon Musk’s reach on Twitter is dropping – he just fired a top engineer over it”. From the article:

…On Tuesday, Musk gathered a group of engineers and advisors into a room at Twitter’s headquarters looking for answers. Why are his engagement numbers tanking?

“This is ridiculous,” he said, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting. “I have more than 100 million followers, and I’m only getting tens of thousands of impressions.”

One of the company’s two remaining principal engineers offered a possible explanation for Musk’s declining reach: just under a year after the Tesla CEO made his surprise offer to buy Twitter for $44 billion, public interest in his antics is waning.

Employees showed Musk internal data regarding engagement with his account along with a Google Trends chart. Last April, they told him, Musk was at “peak” popularity in search rankings, indicated by a score of “100”. Today, he’s at a score of nine. Engineers had previously investigates whether Musk’s reach had somehow been artificially restricted but found no evidence that the algorithm was biased against him.

Musk did not take the news well.

“You’re fired, you’re fired”, Musk told the engineer…

February 9: UPDATE: The Hill posted an article titled: “LGBTQ community reports more abuse on Twitter since Musk takeover: survey” From the article:

…A majority of LGBTQ activists and organizations say they have encountered more hateful and abusive speech on Twitter since Musk’s acquisition of the social media giant, according to a survey from Amnesty International USA, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign, putting in the spotlight what civil rights organizations say is the company’s inability to protect the LGBTQ community from harassment.

The survey of 11 LGBTQ organizations and nine high-profile LGBTQ individuals found that 60 percent of respondents have seen an increase in such abuse and the other 40 percent have seen the same level of treatment since Musk took over in October 2022. None of the respondents reported a decrease in the abuse.

The angst over the treatment of LGBTQ people on the platform comes as Musk has implemented an upheaval of the company’s structure. He fired Twitter’s Global Human Rights Team and much of the infrastructure of Twitter’s Trust and Safety team has been gutted…

February 13: Apple Insider posted an article titled: “Twitter delays new paid API launch by ‘a few more days’ From the article:

Without just hours of advance notice before the deadline, Twitter has delayed its new API rollout by a few more days…

…The latest delay doesn’t have a date attached, unlike the previous two announcements. First, Twitter announced that the free API would be cut off on February 9 and replaced with an unknown paid plan, then that cut-off was pushed back to February 13 without warning.

The latest delay simply states that the company will be taking “a few more days” to ensure the developer community will have an optimal experience with the new API. It isn’t clear what the paid and limited free tiers look like when they launch, but the current announced rate is a $100 per month API fee.

A limited free access tier to the API is also being introduced, but all that is known is that it enables 1,500 tweets per month from a single authenticated user token. This is a write-only API, so third-party clients will not be coming back, nor will this enable RSS feeds to read Twitter timelines…

…Each decision has left the Twitter tech community in a state of confusion. Users have begun migrating to Mastodon as an alternative, with popular developers like Tapbots building clients like Ivory.

February 16: Vox posted an article titled: “Musk’s Twitter is getting worse”. From the article:

…Musk’s Super Bowl meltdown, as reported by Platformer, is one of the clearest signs so far of Twitter’s decline. Musk, apparently livid because his tweets about the Super Bowl were getting fewer views than Joe Biden’s, flew to Twitter’s headquarters and ordered engineers to change the algorithm underlying Twitter’s main product to boost his own tweets above everyone else’s so that they show at the top of Twitter users’ “For You” page. Musk’s cousin, James Musk – who is now a full-time employer and reported “fixer type” within the company – reportedly sent an urgent 2 am message asking all capable engineers to help, and the company tasked 80 engineers to manually tweak Twitter’s underlying system to promote Musk’s tweets…

Soon after that change, many users started noticing their feeds had been bombarded with Musk’s tweets. Musk seemed to acknowledge the phenomenon, posting a meme showing a woman labeled “Elon’s tweets” force-feeding a bottle of milk to another woman labeled “Twitter,” and later posting that Twitter was making “adjustments to its algorithm“.

This episode demonstrates how Twitter has become less and less dependable. The platform’s basic product design is now tailored to the whims of Musk, a leader who seems to prioritize his own image and “free speech absolutist” ideology above business interests.

A few examples: Musk, in the free speech spirit of letting people say almost anything they want on Twitter, restored the accounts of thousands of previously suspended users, including neo-Nazi and QAnon accounts. That was one of the driving factors, including an over 200 percent increase in anti-Black slurs from when Musk took over until December 2022 – upsetting many users who already struggled with harassment on the platform…

…The main group of people who seem to steadfastly support the new Twitter is conservative figures and politicians. After Musk granted amnesty to many suspended accounts of right-wing provocateurs and political leaders, including shock jock Andrew Tate, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA), and former President Donald Trump, Musk has achieved hero’s status in right-wing circles, and has even had Republican-led legislation drafted in his name that would require the Department of Justice to disclose money it spends on Big Tech companies…

It has become clear that Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into something so completely frustrating and useless that he will lose most of the people who are currently Twitter users. I’m really glad that I got on a very fun Mastodon server before all of this happened. The nonsense happening on Twitter isn’t going to happen on the Mastodon server I’m on.

I’m expecting that all of these terrible changes will cause the mass-exodus that Twitter is probably afraid of happening. If he can’t separate users from their money – he’s screwed.

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