Elon’s first year: Twitter is dead. X is on the ropes
…Can Zuck’s Threads land a knockout blow?
Welcome to special anniversary edition of Geekout. 🎉
What are we celebrating? More on that in a moment.
But first… One of the internet’s longest running war of words has been reignited. And it’s all because of Threads… 🔥
…There are two sides to this debate. But which side are you on?
Watch this 23-second GIF and make your decision!
So… the special anniversary edition thing…
On this day one year ago, Elon Musk started pouring gasoline over Twitter, and set the bird on fire… Along with $44 billion…
…Maybe Elon will throw a wild office party to celebrate at X HQ today. 🥳
Meanwhile, Elon is “writing checks his body can’t cash”…
I’m hoping Zuck gatecrashes the party, drags Elon down into X HQ’s basement, and reads out the rules of Flight Club. 🥊 🤞
Bloomberg has invited me to join a live chat discussing ‘A year of Elon’s Twitter’ later today (Fri 27 Oct).
We will discuss all the X / Twitter drama from the past year, and what we think happens next. Join us…!
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🔥 Geekout Hot 5
Meta Sued By U.S. State AGs For Features That Hook Kids [LAWYER-UP]
Banks That Loaned Musk Money to Buy Twitter Expect to Lose Billions [X-PENSIVE]
Zuck Says Threads On Track To Hit 1 Billion Users In A Few Years [HOT THREADS]
UK’s Controversial Online Safety Bill Becomes Law [NEW RULES]
TikTok Testing Longer 15 Minute Video Uploads [LONG-TOK]
✨ New & Noteworthy
Everything else you NEED to know about this week:
Meta / Instagram / WhatsApp
Meta’s revenue and profit surged as its family of apps nears 4 billion users… Instagram is testing a feed just for verified accounts (but does anyone really want that?)… Meta’s policies on the Isreal-Hama war are facing fierce internal debate… And Meta added a bunch of new avatar customisation options.
Instagram added a looping video feature for Notes (younger users love Notes, apparently)… Instagram now lets you create stickers from objects or people in your photos… Instagram is also testing a feature that lets you add images or videos to a friends post… And WhatsApp is going to help lovers cheat on one another (😯).
Downloads of Threads are on the rise… but some Threads users aren’t keen on their posts showing up on Facebook with no opt-out… Threads added polls and GIFs (not JIFs)… and Threads is testing view counts (this is what it looks like), pinned posts, auto-posting to Instagram Stories, and cross-posting features.
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Advertising and sponsorship limited slots available for November + December.
X lost 13% of its daily users in Elon Musk’s first year, according to new data… and most of the world's biggest advertisers have stopped buying ads on X… But X is still stickier than Threads (for now).
X started rolling out audio and video calls… and it might launch a news wire service to let businesses publish press releases (throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, i guess?)… also, Elon thinks X will replace banks in 2024.
TikTok / YouTube
TikTok has added an Instagram-style Explore feed… TikTok is hosting its first ever live global music event… YouTube tests letting creators pause commenting on their videos… Twitch now lets users simultaneously stream to any platform they want.
Reddit / LinkedIn / Tinder
Reddit denied reports that it was planning to block Google search crawlers… LinkedIn added a ‘Top choice’ job feature to help job applicants standout… And finally… Tinder now lets your friends and family swipe right for you (Hell no! 😳).
🚨 Everyone's talking about...
After Elon’s first year: what’s next for X?
A year after Elon Musk took over Twitter, the outlook isn’t great for the platform. But you know all about that - it’s been documented in painful detail here in Geekout over the past 12 months.
The question is: what happens next? Here are some predictions:
X isn’t going to disappear down the toilet. At some point its user numbers will stabilise, but who will be left? I’d guess the mainstream appeal of the platform will continue to fall away as brands, journalists, and celebrities find Threads, YouTube, or even LinkedIn more appealing.
What’s likely to mainly be left is the alt-media/free speech crowd who are attracted to platforms like Rumble plus anyone who really want to have a largely unrestrained political argument.
X might very well become Musks’s vision of an ‘everything app’, complete with payments and banking. But that doesn’t mean everyone will use it. The two things he can’t buy are trust and cultural relevance.
You can’t replace banks if people don’t trust you. And you can’t be at the centre of the mainstream conversation if you aren’t culturally relevant.
Twitter once had those things for many mainstream users but you can’t simply build them back in, no matter how many hardcore engineers you have sleeping on the floor.
The question is: can Musk earn that trust and relevance back quicker than Threads or another rival can steal it?
It’s official: Threads is gaining traction
Oh how the narrative shifts once some hard numbers come in.
The story of Threads ‘struggling’ always felt a bit off. Yes, it was quiet in the aftermath of its epic launch when it hit 100 million registered users within days.
But anyone could clock up those kinds of numbers with news outlets around the world sharing the news of the launch - the users weren’t all going to stick around.
So Meta’s announcement this week that Threads has almost hit 100 million monthly active users is an incredible achievement just three months after launch.
Mark Zuckerberg is bullish, claiming Threads has a good chance of reaching 1 billion users:
What’s interesting about that quote is “a billion-person public conversations app that is a bit more positive” - can Threads continue to grow without developing all the worst attributes of Twitter?
Do we really want another app where you can’t share a harmless opinion without being bombarded with hate from people who took an offhand comment too seriously? Or where you live in fear of becoming the next ‘main character’?
I hope we as a society are coming out of that phase of social media. It would be good for us. Maybe Elon Musk has done us a favour.
But the Threads team will need to work hard to stop those elements of Twitter emerging. It seems to be doing pretty well so far. From experience, it seems the algorithm is designed to stop things spreading too wide or becoming too viral.
That’s maybe bad for social media managers, but good for the platform.
Meta just needs to watch how it grows its latest platform. Threads posts showing up on Facebook with no opt out have proved controversial this week.
Growing by having a better product is far better. Adam Mosseri said this week he was “hoping we can land support for Europe, early Fediverse progress, better Instagram integrations…“ in the coming months.
That’s the way to do it.
This Halloween costume has come back to haunt us again…
This would be CHAOS. But also very funny.
One thing Threads has already poached from X is brands trying too hard to be funny.
This was funny for five minutes, but now it feels tired and uninspired. We can do better than this, social media managers!
You probably saw this horrifying, viral ‘forwarded voice message’ all over your TikTok feed this week. Respect to Vice for fact-checking it.
tldr: it’s almost certainly fake and a rip-off of a Ricky Gervais routine.
💬 You can quote me on that
When I’m quoted in the news, you’ll find it here:
I spoke to the Washington Post about life in the creator economy being risky business:
I gave my assessment of Elon’s first year at X, for the Press Association
👀 Read of the week
What led to the rise of TikTok stars and YouTube millionaires: the history of the creator economy is plotted out really well here:
Vox’s ‘Land of the Giants’ podcast is always worth a listen, but that’s especially true of the latest edition, which goes deep on Musk-Twitter and when the rot really started…
📲 New app
Oh look, it’s another ‘anti-Instagram’ app.
Does anyone really want one of these? They all seem to disappear without trace, so Daylyy has a challenge on its hands… especially with a name so hard to remember how to spell correctly.
🤖 Future social
What’s next in the world of social media marketing? Social Media Today has 34 predictions for 2024…
💡 Coming soon…?
This ‘Nearby’ story feed from Instagram could be big for local businesses and for keeping up with events in your area…
Instagram is testing a verified-only feed. If verification was still only awarded to accounts by Meta to denote high profile, noteworthy, influential accounts, this feed would have been useful.
But now anyone can buy verification, with no quality control by Meta beyond checking they’re a real person, does it hold any value...? It’ll give greater reach to accounts that paid for verification, but does that help users who tap the tab?
There is such a thing as too many Twitter alternatives, and so Pebble (formerly known as T2) will be shutting down.
🛠️ Free tools
We all need to grab images from the web at some point, so it’s worth having one of these Chrome extensions on hand…
Threads has got its first third-party analytics tool courtesy of Interweave
🧪 Social science
Given the news this week that Meta has been sued by 42 US state attorneys general for allegedly addictive features, it’s worth looking at what the science says about social media addiction…
All the ways A.I. is transforming social media:
Facebook is working on a generative A.I. profile picture feature:
📊 Social stats
Meta closes in on 4 billion monthly active people using its apps world wide - that’s almost half the population of Earth.
More Meta News
Meta plans to ignore its Oversight Board’s advice on restricting drug-related posts. [Bloomberg $$$]
New features and tests:
Facebook has added an "Up Next" button to Stories to show you who will be shown after an ad. [@theahmedghanem]
Instagram now lets you create stickers from objects and people in your photos. [Social Media Today]
Instagram now supports auto-translation of live video. [@jonahmanzano]
Instagram now lets Reminder Ads be placed in Stories feeds. [Social Media Today]
Instagram is testing a selfie video feature for Notes. [@MattNavarra]
Instagram is testing an “Add to a post” feature. [@MattNavarra]
Instagram’s Android app icon now supports dynamic themes. [Android Police]
Instagram is working on a Nearby Stories feature. [@alex193a]
The rest: Creator Studio/adtech/Quest and more:
Meta Quest’s latest update adds chat reactions, YouTube live chat, and more. [Meta Quest blog]
Meta avatars have been given new customisations options. [Meta Quest blog]
Horizon Worlds has added new features, including a ‘time spend’ monitor. [The Verge]
Meta has launched a mini-site detailing its approach to brand and user safety. [Social Media Today]
More X News
More TikTok News
TikTok is reportedly considering launching a standalone shopping platform in Indonesia, to comply with laws there. [Financial Times $$$]
TikTok doesn’t appear to recommend news very often, even to news junkies. [Mashable]
TikTok is popular as a campaign tool with some young US Democrats. [NPR]
ByteDance says it is committed to VR business, Pico after a report said it was shutting down the brand. [Reuters $$$]
Insights to give you an edge at work:
New features and tests:
💥 More social media news and updates
The US Supreme Court has lifted a ban on the Biden administration communicating with social media companies about misinformation. [Axios]
YouTube and Twitch are slowing deals to attract gaming talent. [Bloomberg $$$]
EU lawmakers have agreed on key detection limits for controversial CSAM-scanning proposal. [TechCrunch]
TikTok, YouTube, and Meta are considering applying for e-commerce licenses in Indonesia, after the country introduced new laws. [Reuters $$$]
Snap is struggling to build its ads business. [Insider $$$]
Telegram has blocked channels Hamas uses to communicate on Android because Google forced it to. [The Verge]
Twitch may not be safe for minors who stream, according to new research. [Mashable]
Weibo, the ‘Chinese Twitter’, is asking influencers to display their real names. [Bloomberg $$$]
Insights to give you an edge at work:
New features and tests:
YouTube is testing letting creators pause commenting on videos. [Android Police]
YouTube on Android and iOS now shows ambient colours around fullscreen videos. [9to5Google]
Snapchat now lets you create chat shortcuts. [@theahmedghanem]
Twitch will now let streamers simultaneously stream on any service they want. [The Verge]
Twitch's off-platform conduct policy now covers doxxing and swatting. [Engadget]
😳 And finally...
A trick to look out for next time you’re lingering on TikTok. Maybe try it yourself!
“The so-called lip gloss overture is just one of many subtle tactics used by social media stars.”
📅 Back next week...
…This is the end bit of Geekout where i try to think of something witty or thought provoking to say, that neatly wraps up the newsletter, that most people probably never read anyway, and therefore i should spend way less time crafting each week.
But anyway! 🙂
Right… Time for me to go troll the people saying “it’s JIF not GIF”, in comments on my posts. Don’t even think about it!
This newsletter is edited by Martin SFP Bryant