Five ways to resurrect Twitter

Perhaps Musk can still reboot Twitter. But its demise now seems a very real possibility. Photo: AFP
Perhaps Musk can still reboot Twitter. But its demise now seems a very real possibility. Photo: AFP


  • From a UN takeover to a consortium buying it, some options seem unreal, but its survival is at stake.

Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter Inc, walked into the company’s headquarters carrying a kitchen sink. In a little over two weeks since then, he seems to be doing his best to flush the company down it.

Not since former US president Donald Trump’s coronation and reign has any other event created such saturation coverage in the media as Musk’s daily antics at Twitter. As advertisers flee the platform, fake blue ticks proliferate, and as Musk halves the employee base, most business and tech pundits are confidently predicting the death of the company. The general public is watching the drama with morbid fascination, as a high-profile billionaire seems to be toying around with his latest acquisition. Horrified Twitterati are furiously exploring alternatives for when (and not if) Twitter fades away into the Martian sunset. The end of the platform seems nigh.

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I too happen to be one of Twitter’s original blue-ticked cognoscenti, now anxiously awaiting its projected doom. But will the platform fade away, and should it be allowed to? Twitter, for all its ills, does fulfil a very important role—that of a global town square, a democratized broadcaster of public opinion, sometimes a real force for good. The last role was apparent in Tahrir Square, Egypt, and in popular resistance to the regime in Iran. And Twitter is sometimes the only way for people to reach out for desperate help in natural and man-made disasters.

Perhaps Musk can still reboot Twitter. But its demise now seems a very real possibility, so here are my rather hopeful five scenarios of how Twitter could be saved, and perhaps resurrected:

One, a good possibility is for one of the Big Tech firms to swoop in and buy Twitter off Musk. This company will not acquire it at the price Musk paid, but as Twitter rapidly descends into a near-death state, the price would be precipitously lower. I see Microsoft as a contender; its chief Satya Nadella bought LinkedIn and GitHub, and he was keen on TikTok. Twitter would be a prized asset on the Azure cloud, and there could be some valuable scenarios of synergy with Microsoft Teams, 365, or even LinkedIn. Google is another contender; it has long been unsuccessfully trying to build a social network and an inorganic way to land itself another Google+ might not be a bad idea. Oracle is a possibility too; its co-founder Larry Ellison is still fretting over the loss of LinkedIn. The only problem: owning Twitter is fraught with regulatory, reputational and even geopolitical risk, and tech titans might therefore be wary.

Two, employees might rise and buy the company from its apparently befuddled owner. The chances of that happening are not very high, but then management buyouts are not uncommon either. Michael Dell famously bought his namesake company back from its shareholders; Richard Branson did the same with some Virgin companies. It might be a good idea for Jack Dorsey or another credible tech luminary (Microsoft’s Bill Gates?) to team up with key employees, get some private equity backers, and organize a buyout of the company. Musk paid a high price for it, but might give it away for a few cents on the dollar just to get it off his back.

Three, Twitter could be just open-sourced and broken up. It might achieve a Mastodon-like decentralized structure with a community or a foundation (like the Linux Foundation), a near-Web3 property with users and creators owning the platform. This is what both Dorsey and Musk have rhapsodized about, and it could be a great solution, but only if it can be done. Creating a decentralised, community-owned social network is an excellent concept, but is virtually impossible to create at scale, as Mastodon’s struggles have shown.

Four, in a manner similar to the fully decentralized ownership above, perhaps a concerned, well-meaning, wealthy group of people come together to buy Twitter off Musk and rebuild it as a real, impartial town square. They can form a consortium and create a management team to manage the company, reporting to them. This could be done through a not-for-profit B-company model, its objective being to offer a democratic platform for creativity, protest and dialogue. It is an idealistic scenario, but is perhaps the best of the lot. As an aside, I see Anand Mahindra, with his 10 million followers and a reputation for leveraging Twitter as a megaphone to do good, being one of the members of such a consortium.

Five, similar to the above, perhaps a global institution could intervene and take control of the company. This is far-fetched to imagine, but this may be one of the more useful things that the United Nations (UN) could do in its chequered history. Data and opinion platforms are very powerful weapons now, as Trump showed during his US presidency. Owning this for the world and regulating it much like nuclear power was regulated would not be a bad thing for the UN to think about.

There could be other possibilities too, other than those listed above. Some of the ideas here border on fantasy, but one of them could well be the end game for the beleaguered social network.

The alternative would be a certain if slow death.

Jaspreet Bindra is the founder of Tech Whisperer Ltd, a digital transformation and technology advisory practice.

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