Twitter is not well. Many of us were worried that Elon Musk might rapidly change the face of the platform. But only very few expected things to go down so rapidly. After the latest deadline to respond whether they want to stay, it looks like about 75 % of the remaining workforce has not opted in to the tech billionaire‘s “extremely hardcore” Twitter 2.0 and will therefore leave the company. From the outside, it all looks like a complete mess and that it’s only a matter of time until we see a data breach or a major outage, because nobody can guarantee the stability of the platform anymore.
The Nest We Built
For many of us, Twitter was a special place on the Web. It was the place where not only celebrities, politicians, or journalists were commenting on the latest trends in society. It was also the home of the majority of the Web community. On Twitter, we would meet people who shared our values and interests, we got to know peers in our industry, and many of the people we briefly tweeted with at first became good online – or even offline – friends over the years.
Despite many questionable management decisions or problems with moderation, despite changes to the timeline and many failed attempts to introduce new features, Twitter prevailed because of the people on the platform who made this comparatively small social network relevant and interesting.
Now that everything seems to go up in flames, people are posting farewell messages or are retweeting some of their favorite tweets for a last time. There are lots of emotions involved, which just shows that many of us would have loved to see this place thrive just a little longer. But what I also noticed is that many of those who are jumping ship and getting an account on Mastodon, are mentioning that “it feels like the early Twitter from 2009”. There was something missing that they now recognize while scrolling down a much calmer, chronological timeline again.
Because, as sad as all this is, Twitter already had already become but a shadow of it’s former self. Many people had already turned their back on the attention-sucking algorithmic version of what had once been a place to have amazing conversations. Those who stayed didn’t do it because Twitter was becoming better, but because they still valued their remaining friends on the site and, maybe, also because they kept clinging to the memory of early Twitter, unwilling to let go. Maybe the Twitter we all loved was long gone, anyway.
The end of Twitter as we know it might be a perfect time to take a step back and review our use of social media in general. Whenever a site like Twitter goes down, it takes a vast amount of data and a large chunk of our collective web history down with it. And that’s also true for all the other social media platforms people are now starting to use as alternatives.
There is one place, however, that will stay with you whatever happens to all the platforms you post on: your personal website. So if you don’t have your own website yet, get a domain today, own your content, and publish on your own site. This doesn’t mean that you need to stop using social media or that you should use solely your website instead of other tools of communication. But think about the things that you would like to preserve or share that aren’t ephemeral and temporary. For those things, those thoughts, a personal website is the perfect place. Plus, it is the perfect playground to explore new web technologies or try out new stuff. The possibilities are endless.
Spreading Our Wings
In every ending there is a new beginning. The end of Twitter is also a huge opportunity to start something new and amazing, to build new communities and new tools for communicating online. It is a chance to explore new ways to connect our websites to each other, develop new formats for publishing our thoughts, or rediscover alternative ways to discover content, like RSS. And, if you look closely, you can already see and feel a spark of enthusiasm all around. People are linking to their blogs, are sending out their newsletters, or are suddenly reviving old side-projects. Almost as if they just needed permission to finally move on.
The end of Twitter could prove to be a blessing for the Open Web.
Or, to quote Brent Simmons: “The web is wide open again, for the first time in what feels like forever.”