The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Elon Musk really broke Twitter this time

By Charlie Warzel

03 Jul 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. Twitter owner Elon Musk has implemented a series of controversial changes to the platform, including requiring users to log in to view tweets and limiting the number of tweets users can view in a day. These changes have made Twitter unusable for many and have led to speculation about Musk's intentions for the platform, argues the author.

Twitter may have just had its worst weekend ever, technically speaking. In response to a series of server emergencies, Elon Musk, the Twitter owner and self-professed free-speech “absolutist,” decided to limit how many tweets people can view, and how they can view them. This was not your average fail whale. It was the social-media equivalent of Costco implementing a 10-items-or-fewer rule, or a 24-hour diner closing at 7 p.m.—a baffling, antithetical business decision for a platform that depends on engaging users (and showing them ads) as much as possible. It costs $44 billion to buy yourself a digital town square. Breaking it, however, is free.

First, Twitter set a policy requiring that web users log in to view tweets—immediately limiting the potential audience for any given post to people who have Twitter—and later, Musk announced limits to how many tweets users can consume in a day, purportedly to counter “extreme levels of data scraping & system manipulation.” Although these measures will supposedly be reversed, as others have been during Musk’s tenure, they amount to a sledgehammering of a platform that’s been quietly wasting away for months: Twitter is now literally unusable if you don’t have an account, or if you do have an account and access it a lot. It is the clearest sign yet that Musk does not have his platform under control—that he cannot deliver a consistently functional experience for what was once one of the most vibrant and important social networks on the planet.

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