Has Elon Musk pulled off the worst purchase in the history of American capitalism? And he didn't even wait till Black Friday Month to squander 44 billion US dollars to turn That Well Known Microblogging Website into his personal plaything. Toys R Us indeed!
Elon's first fortnight as "Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator" has been a dystopian libertarian nightmare. Think Charles Foster Kane saying "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper" - a quaint notion by comparison but the same fantastic petulance translated to a global level.
Musk sacked his Board and flew solo. Somehow or other, that should be prevented from happening.
His notion that the verification Blue Tick (actually a White Tick on a blue background) can be sold as part of a Twitter Blue subscription is reckless, and as I write this we don't know where this will end up, as his mind keeps changing day by day. (As I said, no Board to maintain sanity)
What does it mean for me, as a verified Twitter account holder, @rickeyrecricket having possessed the magic tick since July 2017? Well firstly, I'm not paying a single cent to subsidise Elon's horrendously overpriced purchase, which has left Twitter Inc burdened with crippling debt. If I lose my verification status, so be it.
It has, in fairness, been good to me - my Twitter following on that account has risen from about 3k to almost 11k in five years, and during the Australian summer my tweets serve more than one million impressions per month. It doesn't hugely matter to me if that level of attention comes to an end, although it hardly puts me in the realm of "influencer".
I intend to remain on Twitter for as long as it is tenable, this for me will probably depend on its technical stability, and Elon's slashing of staff may endanger that. I know of people who have left because of fear for their online safety in the anticipated pseudo-verified norm. I am fortunate not to have that type of online harassment to deal with. But like many people, I am testing the waters with Mastodon.
I first joined Mastodon in April 2017. I set up accounts on three servers - mastodon.cx, mastodon.network and mastodon.club. All have vanished. The idea that you could set up your own federated server was fun for some people (and in 2022 apparently is again) until the realisation of the hard work, the persistance and the cost sank in.
One server that has survived is the original: mastodon.social. You'll find me there at @firstname.lastname@example.org and happy that with the "exodus" from Twitter I have people to talk to now. I don't intend using it for my cricket talk just yet.
I should add that while I refuse to pay for Twitter Blue, I am happy to contribute towards the Mastodon Patreon.
My gut feeling is that Twitter will survive, but Elon has to stop spooking the advertisers and behave like a grown-up, and democratise the running of the company again. Mastodon's federated structure, like Jabber in the decade before it, is a noble idea that hasn't worked so well in reality. My heart sinks when I see people I follow on Twitter announce their Mastodon presence on servers with all sorts of weird and wonderful names. I hope they last. One of my defunct Mastodon hosts is now a p!rn site.
I remember the "mass exodus" from Instagram a few years ago and think (and hope) this will blow over the same way.
(Fun Fact: Truth Social, Donald Trump's bespoke social network, nicked its source code from Mastodon.)