News that Elon Musk — best known for his work at SpaceX and Tesla and for needling the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — purchased nearly $3 billion worth of Twitter stock took the tech world by storm at the start of the week. Shares of Twitter shot higher in the wake of the news, padding both Musk’s accounts and those of the company’s other investors and employees.
The tech mogul quickly converted his putatively passive stake into a board seat the next day, creating yet another news cycle around his investment activity, the future of the social network, and corporate governance more generally.
The entrepreneur is an outspoken corporate executive and fan of using Twitter to make news, incense his critics, and generally have more fun than most CEOs. But the SpaceX founder did provide some context in late March, arguing on Twitter that Twitter is falling short of its putative remit as a “town square.”
TechCrunch’s Amanda Silberling previously talked through Musk’s then-stated view that Twitter should be more open and the chance that he might build a competing service. That commentary came before Musk bought a little more than 9% of Twitter and got a seat on its governing council, so it’s time to dip back into the question and do a bit more thinking.
Below, we’ve gathered thoughts from Amanda Silberling yet again, new TechCrunch recruit Kyle Wiggers, and Alex Wilhelm. Silberling thinks that influence is the correct prism through which to view Musk’s comments and actions, while Wiggers is more focused on the corporate governance perspective and Wilhelm weighed in on what good personality-focused social networks can and cannot bring. Let’s have some fun!
Alex Wilhelm: Why doesn’t Elon just get a Discord?
I’ve been chewing on the matter of major names taking their fans to new platforms since we saw an exodus of certain right-wing figures to alt-Twitter services in recent years. Some left voluntarily, some with a boot firm in their backside. But what they all share is the fact that their new homes have generally failed to challenge Twitter’s hegemony.
The lesson is not that a handful of individuals or narrow ideologies make Twitter great. Indeed, it’s the opposite. The great body of Twitter users and their myriad, diffuse viewpoints make Twitter great. This makes building a “new, better Twitter” around anything too focused essentially a doomed effort. At best you’ll create a modest, insular community that generally agrees with either you or your treasured viewpoint.
And we have a service for that! It’s called Discord, and it’s pretty good.
Elon doesn’t want that, I reckon. As Amanda argues below, he doesn’t want to lose influence. So why not buy a bunch of the company’s stock and strong-arm your way into its inner sanctum?