So what is Elon Musk’s long-term vision for Twitter, and how does he plan to turn the app into a money-making machine with billions of users, as he has repeatedly explained in interviews?
Today we took a look at Elon’s broader strategic thinking around the app, along with some new updates on how Twitter 2.0 is progressing on various elements.
Musk made a new presentation on Twitter and his other companies at the Morgan Stanley Tech, Media and Telecommunications Conference in San Francisco, where Musk provided insights into several key aspects, including her work on reducing hate speech, growing usage of the app, and the larger vision , transforming Twitter into a major payments and commerce app.
First, Musk outlined his overall vision for Twitter, making it a “global marketplace” again.
Twitter has always had this as a defining goal of sorts, though it’s moved away from the “town square” framework in recent years under former CEO Jack Dorsey, who became disillusioned with the inevitable calls from Twitter management about what could be shared on the app and what not.
This was a key element of Musk’s push to reform Twitter’s approach by allowing more free and open speech and, ideally, letting users decide what’s allowed, with Community Notes playing a bigger role in helping Twitter Allowing users themselves to monitor misinformation and untruths by adding contextual explanations to individual tweets.
Musk also laid out the core principles of Twitter 2.0, which he hopes will ultimately make Twitter a source of truth by empowering everyone’s input.
According to Musk:
“So the goal is for Twitter to be the best source of truth, the most current and accurate source of truth, even when the truth is something we don’t want to hear or uncomfortable or whatever, but for it to be timely and accurate and where you really understand what’s going on.”
Musk went on to explain that the media is currently able to control important narratives by choosing what to cover and what has top priority. But Twitter empowers everyone to decide what’s relevant faster by allowing more input. For this reason, Musk believes it is crucial that Twitter allows free and open speech as much as possible.
“The foundation of a functioning democracy must be freedom of expression and a level playing field. That’s why it’s the first change. It was the first thing they did, as if we had to guarantee freedom of expression. And why did they do that? Because where they came from, there was no free speech, and if you lose free speech, you don’t get it back. So we must protect it at all costs.”
This was a key element of Musk’s broader foray into the app, which he has reinforced with his own tweets on various controversial topics.
Which then leads to concerns about what people might actually be saying on the app and how that might lead to harm and negative behavior. On that front, Musk also outlined Twitter’s progress in combating hate speech, which Musk said has fallen by 50% since he acquired the app.
Some experts have questioned Twitter’s metrics, and we don’t have access to what that data means exactly — but based on the key elements the Twitter 2.0 team is measuring, they’re working to address potentially harmful elements to which it is should result in an improved user experience.
Of course, letting tens of thousands of previously banned users back into the app seems counter to that goal, but again, based on the metrics Musk and his team are tracking, there seems to be improvement.
The same applies to child exploitation content.
Musk has repeatedly claimed, as this chart shows, that Twitter is doing more to address CSE content than Twitter has ever done in the past. Experts have also disproved those numbers, but Twitter appears to be taking more action, at least through some measures, to address this element, which Musk says will always be the number one priority in the app.
However, larger changes remain problematic. As we saw earlier this week, Twitter appears to be becoming increasingly unstable, leading to major outages and impacts, likely due to reduced oversight as a result of downsizing.
Musk acknowledged that this is an issue, noting that the current codebase is prone to bugs with even the slightest change.
But despite increased error rates, Twitter usage is at an all-time high with more than 250 million daily active users, according to Musk.
It’s worth noting that this chart measures up to the fourth quarter, and reports suggest that Twitter usage has declined significantly since then. But despite this, Twitter’s popularity has increased among Musk — not to the level Musk obviously would like (relative to that billion-user goal), but it’s well on its way to seeing improvements when it comes to all of its elements can reconcile.
On that front, Musk spoke briefly about his plans to improve Twitter’s ad relevance and perform better through various targeting measures.
Some of this revolved around simple measures like keyword targeting, which Twitter had previously refrained from doing due to reduced advertiser performance. Elon is now trying to implement more direct targeting options like these, which allow advertisers to make their content stand out in related discussions in the app.
Finally, Musk discussed his longer-term vision for Twitter and its implementation in the “everything app,” which largely revolves around payment integration.
“I think it’s possible to create a very powerful financial experience. Basically, PayPal is something of a half version of what I think could be done in the area of payments and finance. So let’s say you want to be able to easily send money from one account on Twitter to another account in one click, you want to be able to earn interest on that money, you want to be able to have debt, so you can use your interest make it negative. Basically, I think it’s possible to become the largest financial institution in the world simply by providing people with convenient payment options. We don’t have time to go into detail here, but if we just keep making the app more useful, people will use it more and it will be great.”
The vision is that eventually, by enabling payments via Tweet, Twitter will be able to facilitate more types of transactions, making it a more useful app for all different purposes, similar to how Chinese messaging apps like WeChat are essential utilities have become in this region.
Of course, Meta is also trying to facilitate the same and has only recently received approval to expand its use of WhatsApp payments in Brazil, while also gaining traction with WhatsApp payments in India, likely the key market for such a shift.
But success in this space won’t be easy, especially given the ongoing regulatory scrutiny, and given Musk’s defiant stance towards other regulators like the SEC, it’s hard to imagine Twitter ever getting the approval it needs to make it happen.
Still, the longer-term vision is that Twitter will become a major source of truth in journalism and a key service to enable more types of payments, which will then make it a critical app for many more people. It’s an optimistic strategy that requires a lot of things to get right, but Musk says the app may be on track to be liquid by the end of this year after massive cost cuts.
That at least gives it a firmer footing to build on, and perhaps Elon’s vision goes beyond what others can yet see for the app.
You can watch Elon’s full presentation at the Morgan Stanley TMT conference here.