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Twitter is reinventing itself and making the same mistakes as Facebook and Instagram

18 March 2021

And so it begins: Twitter is officially losing itself. For a social media platform that has spent so long avoiding the integration of new features to prevent morphing into its competitors, it’s safe to say that the tech giant has caved. And to be honest with you, I’m not pleased in the slightest. 

Twitter has launched more mass tech updates in the last year than in its 15-year existence. In November, much to widespread disapproval, the platform revealed its Story-like feature, Fleets. The staple format that has become associated with both Snapchat and Instagram signified an unwanted change that many – myself included – weren’t ready for. Despite this, we continued to pay no mind to the unnecessary ephemeral feature floating at the top of the app’s timeline. Little did we know this move would be the start of Twitter’s plans to reinvent itself completely.

Following the development of its feature Spaces – Twitter’s answer to Clubhouse – the platform was making moves behind-the-scenes to expand its newfound empire further with the acquisition of the email service Revue in January. Aware of how emerging newsletter culture is revamping the blogging industry, Twitter wasted no time in positioning itself as a direct opponent to email newsletter platform Substack. In the past year, the rival service has been growing in popularity, and many writers and high-profile journalists have been using Substack to launch their own paid newsletters on the website. And after an original attempt to acquire Substack back in November, Twitter retaliated by buying newsletter service Revue. Attempting to attract more writers onto the service, Twitter has made it so users can access Revue’s Pro features for free on all accounts and lowered the cut the company takes on paid newsletters to 5% – half of Substack’s 10% fee. For now, Twitter claims it plans to continue operating Revue as a standalone service but with the way the company is moving, it’ll probably be integrated into the app sooner than we think.

On top of this, last month Twitter announced a string of upcoming changes to the platform. Alongside its new communities feature allowing individuals to create and join groups based around specific interests – mirroring Facebook Groups – the company revealed “Super Follows”. This is a way in which users will be able to monetise their content by giving followers access to extra content, which could be bonus tweets, access to a community group, subscription to a newsletter or a badge indicating your support. Now, I guess this move was to be expected since many platforms are making the effort to help its creators. Earlier this week, Clubhouse launched its accelerator Clubhouse Creator First alongside plans to create a subscription tool for creators. However for Twitter, this sudden move to change and evolve everything on the platform all at once is overbearing.

As much as I’m open to some of these new innovations – like its overdue efforts to update TweetDeck and the release of Spaces, which plans to let anyone start hosting from April –  it’s a lot to take in. Much like Tumblr, Twitter has remained for the most part untouched when it comes large-scale updates. Yes, since joining in 2009, it has evolved from its days of 140-character SMS-only tweets to adopting 280-characters, video and ridiculous but interesting long threads. However, despite all these timely changes, Twitter remained true to its roots, a multi-purpose micro-blog for people to express themselves. Now, with these new updates, I’m concerned Twitter will lose its appeal by trying to copy other apps at such a rapidly intense pace. No one is saying Twitter should remain stagnant. It’s fine for a platform to evolve (within reason). But Twitter, please don’t pull a Facebook and Instagram and forget your core purpose. It is not, and will never be, a good look.

By Jennifer Adetoro, culture editor of CORQ.