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Why does everyone want to buy Twitter and it’s not a good idea?

Elon Musk is the last millionaire to take the bad decision to try to buy Twitter.

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For nearly all of the sixteen years of its existence, Twitter has had the reputation of not fulfilling its potential and that it could be much more. Twitter’s dilemma is that it is a well-known service but not as widely used; it is a financially successful company, but not very successful; sometimes competently managed but also chaotic; and influential in a way that is exciting but also terrifying.

The perpetual belief that Twitter only needs one great idea to become awesome has many people thinking of buying the company to make it shine, but it is unlikely that someone actually wants to own it.

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Whether you’re hooked on Twitter or are among the majority of users in the world who steer clear of the app, what happens with this company matters. Twitter is increasingly a digital gathering place that world leaders fear and want to control, and where elected officials, activists, journalists and executives like Musk spread their messages and settle scores..

Musk made a semi-formal proposal last week to buy Twitter, which in effect put a “For Sale” sign on the company. Nobody knows what will happen next.

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Perhaps Musk will become the owner of Twitter, if he stays interested long enough to find mounds of money to help pay off his offer of around $43 billion. He may be bought by another billionaire, another technology company or another financial investor. Maybe no one will.

Living with an uncertain future is nothing new for Twitter. You could spend days counting the number of times various companies considered buying this information platform or rumors of a possible sale.

Twitter has always been for sale, partly for technical reasons. Unlike other technology and media companies, including Google, Facebook and New York TimesTwitter doesn’t have a special type of stock that allows its founders to nearly veto a sale.

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However, there is also the perennial belief that Twitter should be more than it is. Many people believe that all Twitter needs is a little fix (a feature to edit tweets, a new administration, a new type of technology for the backbone, a change in advertising strategy, reduce expenses and modify the application). or looser rules for free speech, which is what Musk wants).

Politicians and other influencers, including Musk, regularly complain that Twitter censors too much or too little. Also, Twitter investors always claim that the company doesn’t make enough money.

If I could sum it up in one sentence, Twitter is not Facebook, which generates twenty-three times Twitter’s annual revenue and almost 2 billion daily users compared to Twitter’s 217 million. (Companies count users a little differently, but that gives you an idea.)

“Twitter’s cultural influence is as big as Facebook’s, even if it’s only a twentieth of its size,” said Mark Mahaney, who has followed Twitter for years as an investment analyst now with Evercore ISI. That makes people wonder, “What’s wrong with Twitter?” he commented.

Even so, most people and companies that have considered buying Twitter in detail have freaked out and fled. In 2016, Disney withdrew its bid to buy it in part because executives worried it would tarnish the company’s family image if it became the owner of a rambunctious information platform. Salesforce boss Marc Benioff changed his mind when Salesforce investors hated the idea of ​​a business software company owning Twitter.

Government authorities would most likely not allow companies that appear to be sympathetic to Twitter, such as Google and Facebook, to buy it, due to monopoly concerns.

Twitter is too big, but at the same time it’s not big enough, but it’s also not good enough. It’s not Facebook, and that’s why a lot of people want to buy it, but at the same time they don’t want to buy it for that very reason. Twitter could give influence to any owner, but also too much unwanted attention.

Musk might be one of the few people in the world who is brave enough (or dumb enough) to want to buy twitter and actually do. Perhaps Musk is the person who can finally unleash the potential of Twitter. Or maybe he’ll just end up joining the long list of people who once thought they could.

© The New York Times 2022

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