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Slate - April 26, 2022

What if I were to tell you that Twitter is not that important in the world?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is important. It’s certainly important to some people, namely an otherwise successful investor—the richest human in the history of the world for now—who borrowed and begged for $44 billion to buy a company that has almost never made money.

But really. How important is it in a global and historical scale? If it went away tomorrow, would the world be poorer for it?

Sure, for years a rich troll spewed nonsense via the service and somehow became president of the United States, only to wear out his welcome after violating Twitter’s rules one too many times by lying about the results of his own election failure and stoking a violent uprising against the United States.

And sure, most of the influential politicians, journalists, and celebrities are active on the site, which is easy to use and easy to monitor. And sure, most of the scholarship about social media is based on Twitter because it’s easy to scrape data from it. All of this gives us the impression that what happens on Twitter matters beyond Twitter.

That’s not to say that Twitter is unimportant to those of us who use it. It’s important to me. It’s important to those politicians, celebrities, and journalists. And it’s valuable to anyone trying to generate attention among elites for ideas or campaigns.

Black Twitter” is certainly the most visible and influential of all Twitter-based phenomena, and it could not have thrived under any previous or existing platform the way it has on Twitter. Twitter is qualitatively valuable because of its collection of segmented user bases in the United States in ways it fails to be quantitatively important in the world at large.

But let’s put Twitter in context. In terms of users, it’s not among the top 10 social media platforms in the world. It’s behind Telegram, Snapchat, and even Pinterest. It has about the same number, 436 million users, as Reddit.

In contrast, Meta owns four of the top seven (Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram). Alphabet owns YouTube. Tencent owns WeChat, the largest service in China. And ByteDance owns TikTok, the fast riser of the past two years and the years to come. All of the top seven have about or more than 1 billion users. Meta’s four services have almost 4 billion humans using them regularly—more than half the population of the planet. More than that, Meta is astronomically profitable.

The fact that Twitter has been a business failure since its inception is no secret. It’s been put up for sale many times, yet no smart buyer concluded that its potential for growth or revenue outweighed its headaches and liabilities. ...
Read the full report at Slate