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This has been a weird week for social media | The Digital Markets Act will soon manifest | Apple are really taking the piss now
Hello — god I’m bored of thinking about Elon Musk. And yet, I cannot stop. I can only apologise.
This week was something I could have done without 👎. But you know, I’m not sure I even trust my rating system anymore — so much has happened and I’m SO CONFUSED:
Elon has charged into Twitter’s HQ like he’s doing a military coup.
Apple have changed their terms so that promoted posts (ads) on Facebook now count as in-app purchases
Luckily for Europe, the Digital Markets Act is about to kick in
📖 Hello, welcome to my diary
I feel like the moment I hit publish on last week’s post, about a thousand things happened, and then they just kept happening. So this week I sort of just logged my observations each day — I hope you don’t mind.
I wrote this twitter thread to air out my frustrations about how Elon doesn’t understand content moderation and free speech…
It has also occurred to me that in the history of social media, we’ve never seen a platform be taken private and run by someone who was not on the founding team — I don’t know why that matters but it feels like it does somehow.
I read a pretty excellent take on Garbage Day, explaining that Elon Musk wants to turn Twitter into an airport lounge; that his undying need to be the main character of the internet will mark the undoing of his most favourite website. Sounds about right.
This is in reference to Elon’s push to make 50% of Twitter’s revenue come from subscriptions. Right now, 89% of it comes from advertising, obviously. His first move is… ultimatums. Verified accounts: pay for Twitter Blue, or lose your blue tick. Engineers: build this feature by next Monday or lose your job. Stephen King’s response was ‘they should pay ME’ and I guess the Twitter engineer response has been to keep your head down and only come up for air to kiss-ass.
We all know that demanding the largest accounts to literally pay to create content for the platform will probably just make them leave, but the thing is, Elon is desperate for money and he’s not exactly a great ideas guy.
Charging a subscription to users on a site that runs on user-generated content is a very 2020s sort of joke. It signals that we truly have reached the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the putrid dynamics of web2 monetisation. Social media, and perhaps the internet as a whole, has turned into just another thing that rich people have ‘discovered’, and ruined. They’ve turned the promise of ‘staying connected’ into a relentless side-hustle for creators, and have transformed online spaces into strange social clubs where you can look at baby photos and get radicalised all in one place — it makes no sense.
Something else also finally clicked in the last few days: I’ve often wondered why Twitter is such a poor experience for small/new accounts. If you have less than like 1000 followers you may as well be posting into a boundless void. For smaller accounts, Twitter is more like a place where people go to read what the big accounts are saying — I literally just realised that this is by design. It’s a place where big accounts can flip flop between feeling good about themselves and get shouted at by the thousands of people who disagree with them, while small accounts quietly watch from the sidelines. It’s so funny that the big accounts — the ones that create the most content for the platform — are the ones that will have to pay to stay verified.
And finally for today, I saw a guy pleading people not to jump ship while comparing the struggle of staying on Twitter to the struggle that black people go through when dealing with racist white people with no self-awareness (eg him). It’s hilarious… and ‘sorta important’.
Honestly I just want a place where I can say something and have a few people react to it every now and again — why is that so hard? Why does ‘hanging out online’ have to be this huge complex thing? The underlying technology is not sophisticated or interesting; we’ve only made it that way by idolising tech CEOs.
Furthermore, if we start now saying ‘twitter is over’, we are just buying-in to the silicon valley idea that a platform which doesn’t experience monstrous growth every quarter is ‘a failure’. Twitter is going to be fine — it’s just going to be different. Who knows, it might change into a porn and spam bot site so gradually that you may not even notice.
I am so done thinking about this please leave me alone
🥊 The Digital Markets Act may finally give Apple’s app store the slap in the chops it deserves.
On Tuesday the Digital Markets Act was finally crystallised and birthed into reality. However, there is a gestation period of a few months, so it won’t actually be enforceable until May 2023. In theory, this should give Meta, Apple, Google, and Amazon plenty of time to prepare for what’s to come.
🔥 Three smoking hot facts about what the DMA will do:
Alternative app stores: Apple and Google will have to allow users to download software from other places besides the app store/play store, finally making phones more closely resemble what they actually are: pocket computers.
Make services much more interoperable: e.g. Meta should make it so that you can receive messages from Signal, in WhatsApp or Messenger. In this sense, instant messaging will be more like email, where you can send and receive to and from any client.
Prevent platforms from prefrencing their own services: so, Amazon will not be able to use all the analytics they gather from other sellers to figure out what people like to buy and then undercut them by putting their own cheaper alternatives right at the top of search results.
The first thing is pretty pertinent now, seeing as Apple have just changed their app store guidelines so that purchasing social media ‘boosts’ now counts as an in-app purchase. This means that when you pay Twitter or Facebook (or whoever might have this kind of feature) to promote your post, 30% of that money now has to go to Apple. Until now, paying for promoted posts was not officially an in-app purchase — so Meta weren’t actually paying that 30% fee.
👩🏫 What this means in practice: for one, it means that Apple can now collect even more money for doing absolutely nothing. But mainly, this means that Meta will basically be giving 30% of their ad money to Apple. It’s hilarious, actually. It’s the molten gooey centre of this web2 hellsphere that we are trapped in.
But wait, what about the DMA? Well… yes, exactly. By May, you might be able to get the Facebook app onto your phone via some other app store (I guess one owned by Meta 🙄), in which case the 30% Apple fee won’t apply.
Having devices finally untethered from an app stores will certainly decentralise some power, but also make it so that your phone is as vulnerable to malicious software as your PC is — it’s going to be very interesting to see how this will all work.
I have many more thoughts but I don’t have the time or energy to write these out. Consider updating your subscription to paid so that I can spend more time writing and less time worrying about the gas bill — cheers!