What might a world without Twitter look like?

In Twitter’s 15 years of existence, the platform has become the dominant communication channel for political and government leaders, businesses, brand celebrities and media

After another chaotic week of mass layoffs and policy upheavals, Twitter’s future looks extremely uncertain, with users — and everyone else — increasingly asking one question: What would a world without the so-called app even look like? birds?

With about 237 million daily visitors at last count in late June, Twitter’s user base still dwarfs Facebook’s nearly two billion, TikTok’s billion-plus and even Snapchat’s 363 million.

But in Twitter’s 15 years of existence, the platform has become the dominant communication channel for political and government leaders, businesses, brand celebrities and the media.

Some, like New York businessman Steve Cohn, are convinced that the Twitterverse is just an artificial microcosm of the real world, with limited real meaning.

Twitter “is not ‘substantial’ in any way,” Cohn said — from his own Twitter account. “The world works just fine without Twitter.”

Few people tweet, he continued. “Almost all tweets come from (the) 1%. Most regulars never connect to Twitter.”

But for others, including Karen North, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the site is essential to bringing light to little-known conversations.

“Most of the time people without prominence are not heard,” he said. But on Twitter, “there’s an opportunity to announce things.”

In situations of conflict, social movements or repression, “I think Twitter has become the central platform for spreading truth and reality,” Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told AFP.

Like most other social networks, Twitter is also used to spread propaganda and misinformation, and the company has developed moderation tools to try to curb the worst.

But their ability to keep up with the demands of such a mission has been called into question since more than two-thirds of those teams have pulled out of Elon Musk’s controversial buyout.

A 2018 study found that false information circulates faster than verified posts.

“It’s an unrealistic expectation to imagine a platform where misinformation and disinformation is impossible,” Lister warned.

But “seeing information, good and bad, disappear,” with the possible demise of Twitter, “is inherently bad,” Lister said.

“Emperors and anyone who doesn’t want information to be widely shared would potentially benefit from Twitter going away,” added Mark Haas, a professor at Arizona State University (ASU).

A Twitter failure could have devastating effects on journalism, experts say.

“Twitter… is not really a social network,” North explained. “It’s a news and information network.”

“It’s the place, the central hub where journalists go to get their brains, or a story idea or a headline or a source or a quote,” he said.

With shrinking newsroom manpower and budgets, the resources simply aren’t there, even in the most well-funded news operations, “to go out and find sources in the world,” North lamented.

Twitter, he said, is where much of that work can be done.

Another negative effect of a potential collapse of the platform, according to North, is that without Twitter, the world’s rich and powerful stars and politicians will still be able to command media attention, while those less in the foreground will fight for attention.

“With Twitter, anyone can break a story,” he said.

The website works as a way to share information in real time.

“Twitter has been a vital source of information, networking, guidance, real-time updates, community mutual aid and more during hurricanes, wildfires, wars, outbreaks, terrorist attacks, mass shootings…etc,” he wrote on Twitter University of Maryland researcher. Caroline Orr.

“It’s not something that can be replaced by any existing platforms.”

At present, the solution for a possible alternative to Twitter is not obvious.

“Facebook is valuable, but I think it’s a bit old-fashioned,” Lister said.

Twitter’s smaller competitors are likely to drive users away, including Mastodon, which has grown in popularity since Musk bought Twitter.

“But these will likely remain niche, with none of them becoming the public square that Twitter is trying to create,” ASU’s Hass said.

Both he and North mentioned Reddit as a possible replacement, though North said the forum-based network is limited by its fragmented and cluttered design that can’t replicate Twitter’s ease of use.

Could a replacement emerge? “Of course,” Lister added, but noted that such ingenuity requires vast resources and considerable time.

“You can’t just do it overnight.”

Elon Musk to buy Twitter in $44 billion deal in October 2022
Elon Musk to buy Twitter in $44 billion deal in October 2022

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