Over the past few years, my usage of Facebook has gone down. Not because I don’t like it, but mostly because it has become my news aggregator. It used to be my friend news aggregator, but it turned into brand news aggregator. I have enough sources that are far more superior at aggregating these news types.
Anyway, this week, I changed how my Facebook looked. I had to unfollow and “unlike” a ton of Pages. This included TV shows, movies, tons of fashion brands, products etc. Now, my News Feed only shows posts from my Facebook friends. The peace is back.
At first, it felt nice and I was happy to see the posts from just my FB friends. A few hours in, I realized that these were posts from very few friends who were using it. Not a lot of my friends use or post on FB anymore. It’s the end of a beautiful era.
FB was hot and I loved it. I still do. Not a fan of the UI but nevertheless, it’s an amazing platform. I thought about what would bring back its glory. I think making a user’s News Feed focus on content from their friends would make it wonderful and personal. If a user Likes or Follows a Page, or even joins a Group, FB should make the user explicitly opt-in to include their updates in the user’s News Feed as opposed to including them by default. This would be a better UX. Even having separate tabs to show all the updates from Pages and Groups would be nice. These are the UX changes that’d make FB feel more personal again.
Right now, Instagram is all the hype. I love Instagram. Not the current one, but the original one without the Stories. It was so cool and felt so personal. Now, all I see is that the people I follow posting random re-posts of posts from accounts I don’t give a shit about. Over the past couple of years, I unfollowed so many of my friends who did this. The most critical feature of Instagram was not having this ability to re-post. Now they have it. It makes my feed terrible. I get why they want that feature, but I’m not a fan of it. It’s just bad UX.
I miss the old Facebook and the old Instagram, the fantastic networks that made more people want to use it. Neither of these platforms are simple anymore. The UX is just way too convoluted.
Originally, Twitter verified profiles of people who were prominent in a particular field. Every verified profile would get the coveted Twitter Verified Checkmark. Having a verified checkmark meant that you were considered influential and the other users would trust you and follow you.
As a Twitter user wanting to grow your network (followers), you’d have to produce content that your followers cared about. This could be anything – poetry, random interesting facts, fake news, sport information, tech updates, trolling celebrities, etc – as long as there are users interested in reading your tweets. As you can see, this is a time taking process and you really need some sort of a skill. By doing this, you’d increase your influence and this meant that there would be companies sponsoring your activities and you’d start making real money.
The two key problems here:
Skill required to create good content
The time it takes to build your influence by growing your network
To solve these problems, there have been some bad actors who have figure that they could create thousands of bot accounts and by taking payments, they’d have them follow your account. This solves both of your problems. You pay a certain amount of money, for say, 10,000 followers and expand your network. You didn’t have to post good content or had to wait for a few years. You solved both the problems by throwing money at the problem.
With this expanded network, you apply to Twitter to verify your profile and Twitter obliges and marks your profile as verified and gives you the verified checkmark. Being a verified user, the possibilities are now endless. Produce content, get sponsorship deals, become a billionaire, invest in companies, watch them become unicorns, leprechauns and whatnot and then, write a book. If you don’t write a book, your success just didn’t happen. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit if there ain’t no book!
Learning about the success of this business model, the other bad actors figured that they could replicate it easily. So, they created a ton of these fake bot networks and started selling them. These networks can make you seem really famous over a period of 2-4 days. Imagine having 25,000 followers and a verified checkmark in a matter of 1-2 weeks. More and more people started subscribing to this approach and thus, Twitter ended up having millions of bot accounts.
Twitter’s solution to their bot problem
After Elon took over Twitter, he immediately changed the way Twitter handled showing the verified checkmarks. Instead of forcing users to buy fake bot followers, he forced them to buy the Twitter Blue subscription. You pay $8/month and get the blue verified checkmark. You either pay for it, or lose your special privilege on the network.
This basically discourages these influencers from buying follower bot networks as they get the blue verified checkmark by donating money to Elon. So far, it seems like the bot problem is being handled well.
The under-appreciated beauty of Twitter
Contrary to what most people claim on random Mastodon instances, Twitter isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Twitter is a unique and wonderful place for users around the world to share their thoughts. What makes it beautiful is its constraints.
the 280 character limit (personally, I prefer the 140 limit)
the inability to edit a tweet after it’s posted
These are the constraints that made it popular as they force a user to put more thought into crafting their tweets. If you use the 10,000 character limit, available for Twitter Blue subscribers, it’d be easier and the quality of your content wouldn’t necessarily be as high as your well thought out tweet within the 280 character limit.
Twitter Blue users won’t have these constraints, the ones that make Twitter what it is.
With these constraints removed, Twitter is going to become a dull social network. I’ve always been rooting for Twitter to succeed, but the path that Twitter is heading down, doesn’t seem promising.
As of 04/20/2023 (Elon is obsessed with 420 and 69), all the original verified profiles lost their checkmarks. With this change, the way I viewed Twitter profiles has also changed. I browsed Twitter yesterday, it felt different. It felt nice. Most of the verified profiles that I had been following, suddenly seemed more approachable. I even tweeted about it yesterday.
Elon has been trying so hard to shove Twitter Blue down Twitter’s users’ throats. He has been seen implying that freedom of speech can be preserved by subscribing to Twitter Blue. At its face value, it might sound silly, but the sheer number of users who’ve subscribed to his ideology and Twitter Blue, seem to love it. Good for them. However, the others are just happy being free unverified users.
If I were the CEO of Twitter…
Every social network, not just Twitter, suffers from this problem. If I were the CEO of Twitter, I’d solve the problem the following way:
Separate out user verification and subscription
Every account that wants to be verified will be charged a 1-time payment. The user would have to submit some sort of a government issued ID to verify that they are who they claim to be. Having a subscription tied to verification is outright stupid and doesn’t make sense at all. Suddenly you’re not verified after you stop paying the subscription price? That’s just silly
The number of verified followers would dictate your reach on Twitter
Every verified user will unlock features such as who can interact with them (just verified or non-verified too), etc
Every non-verified user will have limitations. The number of users they can follow, the number users they can @mention in a tweet, the amount of interaction with other users etc
Only verified users can opt in to a subscription
A subscriber would not have Ads displayed on their accounts, can upload videos longer than the basic 2 min 20 sec limitation, highly likely to be discovered more on Twitter, support for analytics on a per tweet basis
All follower count will be hidden
At a large scale, there’s no right solution to handling this problem. There are only less-wrong solutions at best.
After a long enthusiastic wait, day before yesterday I got a chance to watch the movie – “The Social Network”. I loved the movie. Of course not everyone who came along with me loved it. In fact, a friend of mine even slept in the theater itself with a loud snore. It always is a pleasure to watch movies about geeks. I loved every single aspect of the film. The background score blended well. So did the actors. The dialogues in the movie were quite impressive. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I wish I were in Harvard or any of the other elite schools. The life there can no way be compared to the life here or any other school similar to mine. The way students think there is totally different from the way students in normal schools think. They are the 1337 of not only the student society but also the society in general. Damn me for not being in a topnotch school. I would definitely recommend you to watch the movie.