I am optimistic about Twitter’s future because of (a) Elon Musk and (b) its potential as the world’s super app. This post is not an essay; it’s a repository of observations and ideas where I intend to evolve these raw thoughts into implementable product features for Twitter.
Twitter’s potential as a super app
There are three big ideas in this category.
1) Twitter is to proof-of-idea as the blockchain is to proof-of-transaction.
If you listen to any podcast, you’ll likely hear the guest mention a tweet they had as the origin of an idea and proceed to explain it in detail on the podcast. For example, Balaji talks about genomics on the Lex Fridman podcast. Or, Chamath is letting investors know about de-spacing. People are going to Twitter first and elsewhere second. When someone says they have an idea, you can verify the time stamp and language they used to describe a picture. Language matters because if two people claim they have the same idea, you can ascertain how they spoke about it via Twitter and move closer to the truth. Timestamp matters as a to see when someone staked an idea. Did they predict a 2022 recession in 2020, or is that a superficial time estimate? In a world where falsity is easier to engineer, offline ideas or thoughts must move online to verify their accuracy.
2) A digital town square is why people use Twitter, although it’s unobvious to them.
Delian, principal at Founders Fund, tweeted an idea about relocating SF to Miami. Three hours later, Mayor Frances Suarez replied, asking how he could help with the move.
This example is one component of a town square: an idea exchange between people, which can result in governance changes. Once investors relocated to Miami, founders began building companies there, high schools began teaching students software engineering, and the policy of Miami shifted to expand the ecosystem of technical talent in the city.
Another component in a town square is conversation accessibility between “citizen” and “politician.” On Twitter, this manifests as Elon replying to someone regardless of followers. The @ and commenting tools keep every user on the platform within a typing tool of someone with a million plus the distance of followers.
Town squares track public sentiment too. Twitter’s data asset is access to what people are thinking. Every tweet expresses a thought someone has. And with each view, you can analyze sentiment. I think tweets are a better indicator of public opinion than most index tools economists use today. Twitter’s #trending sentiment gives global feeling. The #for-you page provides local sentiment. For example, #Boston or #Seattle are trending topics when I’m in each city where people tweet about frustration with crime, a local event, a sports team win, etc.
Lastly, a town square has built-in serendipity, an unintentional collision between two people, resulting in a mutually thriving relationship. Twitter’s fate is online first, offline second. Replit is an excellent example of this principle. They’ve hired a few engineers through Twitter.
3) Twitter blue
Below you’ll find many raw ideas for how I envision twitter blue becoming valuable for creators and non-creator users.
- Payments: This is the most obvious first step for Twitter to become a super app.
- Payments are 1-1, where I pay a friend for the coffee they bought me.
- Payments are split amongst people and attached to a tweet. For example, each time a startup engineering team releases a feature publically, they get paid. This is tweet-based compensation (TBC).
- Payments happen between two people who don’t know each other. An example: I can turn this blog into a lengthy Twitter thread and pay Jason Calcanis, a product advisor at Twitter, to request feedback. After he replies, Jason gets the money.
- Payments appear in comments as an auction value. People stake a dollar amount on their words, and the root tweeter (the one who made the post that was commented on) can arrange tweets by price and reply accordingly.
- Payments between an audience and a creator funding a video or journalistic investigation. This differentiates from Patreon because, on that platform, you’re subscribing to exclusive content from a creator (which is partly funded from your sub $ value). Here, you’re telling a creator you want to see them film a video on X thing and the cash you give is the support they need to create the video.
- Twitter groups: Many people press “copy link to tweet” and scroll to iMessage to paste a tweet in a group chat. I think better-messaging options are the second step for Twitter to become a super app. If all text communication between friends happens on Twitter, there is also lower activation energy to post a funny joke or from a friend because they are on the platform. I presume there’s twitter-like content stuck in group chats that could spark conversations in a larger audience pool.
- Arrange by (insert here): Users can personalize what their home page looks like depending on what they’re curious about their curiosity.
- Arrange by tag. If I want to read about AI, every post has the tag AI. Elon introduced tags like “photo of the day” or “spoiler alert.” To use an AI tag, the content should contain something valuable enough to warrant its use, making it a better sorting method than AI keywords.
- Arrange by geographic location. I want this option for users and content. I often want to find and reach out to intelligent people in the places I visit, but it’s a strenuous activity on most media platforms. References are the primary way this is done today. Still, because Twitter has access to location data from users, they can not only add a search method for this but activate opportunities for people to meet.
- Article content: I think Twitter can build a compelling competitor to substack, prioritizing independent journalism through individual subscriptions that includes cryptographically verified truth.
- Individual subs: If I subscribe to the Not Boring newsletter by Packy M, I check Twitter instead of getting an email with the newsletter and can read it on the platform. I wonder how clean most users' inboxes are relative to their Twitter feed. I’m curious if higher conversion and open rates can happen on Twitter.
- Cryptographically verified truth: Using a similar model of off-chain to chainlink network to on-chain as demonstrated in this chainlink blog, journalists can show the history of getting verified facts that are included in a final post. Readers shouldn’t believe a journalist's words in a blog if it doesn’t follow a proof-of-truth protocol.
- AI content creation: Tools like machine translation and AI editing are the third step of Twitter becoming a super app.
- Adsense: Creators are unhappy with the money they’re getting from Youtube’s Adsense platform and often have to create adjacent companies to maintain cash-flow positive. Dubbing and instant transcript using natural language processing are two ways creators can increase the number of people that view their content, where the byproduct is more money from Adsense. Youtube doesn’t have these tools, but if Twitter’s AI team can build an engine where creators upload content in English, and it’s autodubbed into 100+ languages, creators will move off Youtube. The instant (readable) transcript is another tool the AI team can work on so podcasters like Lex Fridman can monetize long-form content because people pay to read instead of listening.
- Twitter threads: Users who post threads should have a way to monetize them or turn them into articles.
- Auto-editing: Connie Chan has talked about the number of people who have something unique to share but don’t because editing tools limit them from shipping. Instead of Twitter competing with Youtube with marginal economics, they can increase the number of creators through auto-editing. For example, a mom who has advice on home-schooling kids can use her phone to record horizontal videos of their lessons and upload them to the AI editing tool. The tool “watches” the content, adds transitions, text, introduction/ending music, etc., and sends a request for upload to the mom. She can respond to the AI tool with feedback, and it will make updates. She can hit publish whenever she’s ready. Youtube is a video-sharing platform. Twitter is a video creation (and sharing) platform.
- Elon Musk: Elon is becoming a full-stack CEO. He’s built companies that involve most, if not all, industries and engineering disciplines. I think his presence is a non-obvious feature of Twitter blue that should be considered in the $8 price users are paying.
- An example of full-stack CEO: If Musk builds Twitter into a super app, it could be the only app people need. They can order food, book tickets, watch content, make payments, communicate with friends, learn, etc. Musk is one of the few with a company that gives people internet access. Meaning if he wanted to compete with FB for user count, he could (a) improve the core product of Twitter, moving it to a one-app-for-everything and (b) install Starlink in places that need internet, literally executing the mission of Starlink. People now have the internet and an app that lets them do everything. Facebook can’t do that unless they partner with someone. Youtube can’t do this because of the same reason. Elon is a few strategic steps away from surpassing FB in user count by 2030.
- Leaner is better: In Musk’s texts, he’s focused on hiring great engineers. I think engineers run the world and can automate away many of the business roles that exist in companies today. Engineers can write a script that eliminates the HR department. They can build an AI PM tool that checks in on tasks, takes notes from standups and creates action items, and collects data from every other team to give data to the CEO on the progress of internal projects. In addition to current layoffs, business people will be omitted from Twitter and replaced with code, and Elon will have new liquidity to hire talented people or run experiments.
- He listens: The gray button on officially verified versus Twitter blue users lasted for a few hours. Users didn’t enjoy the distinction. He listens to what Twitter users want and has built a better platform for users within weeks of being the CEO. The formula is simple, but most CEOs get disconnected from their users because their time shifts to non-mission critical tasks.
- Experimentation is his m.o: I think Twitter users will see Elon try out blockchain and crypto tools, verification (outside of checkmark), user editing of tweet history so they can personalize their algorithm (users can mess with backend code of their experience), open sourcing the corporate codebase, etc. Twitter will get other companies to rethink how they operate and compete at the velocity he moves. I envision many corporates will take place over the next two years.
I’d appreciate a steelman or rigor conversation about these ideas. I’ve cracked the egg, and it’s half-cooked on the skillet but needs some more time until it’s a ready-made omelet. Come co-cook the rest of this egg by tweeting @zaynpatels with your comments or emailing me.