Twitter is unmatched as a social network. It’s ability to break news and give access to the thoughts of the world, famous and not so famous, is unrivalled.
But if it is so amazing why is it proving so hard to find a buyer for the fading star?
Only those men and women inside Disney, Salesforce, Google, and the rest, know the real reason why they have all passed.
But here’s my take on it. Twitter is too ‘democratic’.
Everyone has a voice on Twitter. In the beginning this was fantastic, amazing, wonderful. For the first time ever the Elites wouldn’t be able to silence and filter the news. Power would shift to the people. The Arab Spring, which made Twitter’s global reputation soar, showed how the platform could affect real social and political change.
In the years since, the Arab Spring has gone bloodily sour. Twitter in the same period has become a nest of abuse of every kind. I know many more people that are ex-Tweeters than current ones, and with user figures at a standstill, it looks like I’m not the only one.
We all know that research has shown that the anonymity of Twitter, and other anonymous networks like reddit and 4Chan, gives idiots the licence to rip into strangers. Think of how many celebrities have been ripped apart by nameless trollers – Stephen Fry, Leslie Jones, even Robin William’s daughter Zelda who was bombarded with abuse after her much-loved father died.
The thing is, Twitter could have easily changed this, and decreased the abuse. The simplest way would have been to introduce pseudonymity, where users could have a alter ego, but with their real name and email linked to the back end.
But it never happened.
The thing is, Twitter is the free speech poster child of the most enthusiastic free-speechers in America, itself the free-speech champion of the world. Making changes that would impede this freedom was never going to happen with the founders (like Jack) still in charge.
So now we have a network full of poison and not going anywhere because of it. Everyone has a voice, sure, but not everyone’s voice is welcome in a civilised world.
And buyers like Disney have too much of a family reputation to allow it to be tainted with Twitter’s sewers.
It’s still making money (it revealed revenue of $602 million for Q2 2016) and has great data, so is highly attractive to someone. It’s latest foray into live streaming of events like the US Presidential debates is a good move too.
So someone will buy it.
My prediction is that Twitter will continue to see its market cap plunge, and once it gets to say $5-8 billion some PE firm will snap it up and clean it up, with the founders well away from the action.
Only financial players have the ruthlessness to tidy it up (e.g. pseudonymity), and revive the fortunes of a company that most of us actually do wish well.