April 17, 2024

Elon Musk has officially killed Twitter. The zombie platform lives on as X, a disfigured shell of itself

Note to the Editor: A version of this article was first published in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for a daily summary of the changing media landscape here.


Goodbye, birdie.

Twitter, the text-based social media platform that played a huge role in society by acting as a digital home square, was killed off by its unhinged owner, Elon Musk, on Sunday. He was 17 years old.

A Twitter zombie, known only as X, lives reluctantly. Platform warped and disfigured, X marched forward like a White Walker, an ugly shell of its former self under the command of a loathsome leader.

While Twitter was once an authoritative source of information, X has become a platform where trolls can pay a small fee to boost their ugly content ahead of credible sources.

X is a platform where there is no identity verification anymore and personalization is just a paid out subscription.

X is a platform where journalists are banned and smeared and the most obscene and dishonest voices are raised.

X is a platform where the rules are vague and content moderation is largely a thing of the past.

X is a platform where the most important and consequential decisions are made incrementally and can happen without any warning.

And X is a platform where critical infrastructure is crumbling and the most basic features often don’t work.

X might be like Twitter. It might have the same address on the internet as Twitter once had. But make no mistake, it’s not the same platform it once was—even as recently as nine months ago, when Musk took over the leadership, he quickly ousted the former leadership, throwing the company into chaos and turmoil.

That platform is over. It could be argued that it died some time ago, before being announced to the public through a sudden and disorderly rebranding.

In many ways, Musk did to Twitter what Donald Trump did to the Republican Party: completely remade in his own image. At least with Musk, the deformed entity is getting a different name, a name that allows the public to perhaps separate Twitter from what Musk has changed it to.

X will, of course, inherit all of Twitter’s business problems. Musk is the entity that is toxic to advertisers and much of the user base, not the widely recognized bird logo. It’s unclear how the billionaire ultimately turns that ship around, especially as he faces new competition from Mark Zuckerberg and Threads.

For now, however, there is little hope that Musk will be able to successfully steer the ship out of iceberg-laden waters. After all, it was the captain who steered the ship into them – laughing monastically alongside his inner circle as he stood at the wheel.

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