Where are social networks actually headed?

Hannover. When people talk about social networks these days, it’s mostly about Twitter. The once popular short message service is sinking into chaos under its new boss Elon Musk. The future of the platform: completely uncertain.

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Musk had laid off thousands of employees in the past few weeks, alienated countless advertisers, and immediately destroyed new business models. Then on Friday the tech billionaire’s biggest hit so far: Several well-known journalists, including those from CNN and the “New York Times”, were banned from Twitter – Musk himself had apparently caused this.

But it is by far not only the short message service that is stumbling. The entire industry is facing problems that are making its future more uncertain than ever before. Where is the problem? And how could it go on? An overview.

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Twitter: arbitrariness and financial problems

The problems with Twitter are obvious. Elon Musk bought the network in October for an absurdly overpriced 44 billion dollars – and has been organizing a clear cut there since then, which is visible to all.

First the management level had to go, followed shortly afterwards by thousands of employees. So many that new functions for the network could no longer be programmed – and Musk asked some to return.

Apparently hardly anyone on Twitter now cares about moderating the content, which has long since called the EU authorities into action. a Twitter ban has long been under discussion. At the same time, Musk brought numerous questionable personalities back to the platform in the spirit of his “free speech” ideals, including former US President Donald Trump.

Musk also took on major advertisers, many of whom eventually went out of business on the platform. The planned Twitter Blue payment system also failed across the board: users held events with the purchasable blue ticks so much shenanigansthat the project was quickly put on hold again.

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All of this also means that Twitter is in a bad financial position: advertisers are missing, as are sustainable business models. In November, Musk himself lamented the advertiser withdrawal, saying the service was currently making $4 million a day, losing. In addition, the company has accumulated a large mountain of debt.

If Twitter doesn’t fail because of its finances, then perhaps because of its fleeing users. Many have already said goodbye to the platform and are to the decentralized network Mastodon changed. Others were brushed aside by Musk himself.

If this continues, Twitter could meet the same fate as platforms like My Space have already experienced. Once all the relevant personalities have left, there is no longer any reason for the general public to use the network. Currently, the new Twitter boss seems to be doing everything to ensure that this happens.

Facebook: The Metaverse is a failure

The problem: The Twitter competition is not necessarily doing better. At the meta group, which was once called Facebook, there are several construction sites. The company is in a deep crisis of meaning, while competing products are grazing the group with users in droves.

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This can be felt in particular with the in-house service Instagram. The Chinese short video platform Tiktok has blossomed into a real time waster, especially among the young target group, and has long since overtaken Instagram in terms of usage.

Meta responded as it usually does: It recreated the popular Tiktok video feature as “Reels” to keep youth on the platform. So far, this has worked mediocre: The number of views is increasing, but hardly any successful Tiktok creator publishes his videos exclusively for Instagram. The reels remain a junk section for secondary Tiktok clips, cooking and breakdown videos as well as dodgy marketing coaches.

What is probably the most popular meta app, Messenger Whatsapp, has hardly made any money for the company so far. Messenger is ad-free and free. Mothership Facebook is at best still relevant for the older target group – younger people are hardly ever active on the network that was once so successful.

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At the same time, the group lacks successful alternatives. The Metaverse, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls the “future of the internet,” is becoming a laughing stock. Here people are supposed to connect with each other via virtual worlds – but so far hardly anyone wants to take part.

The group recently invested $15 million in the project. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Horizon Worlds, Meta’s most important Metaverse app, only has 200,000 monthly active users – while the group’s traditional apps have recently been noticeably neglected. The result was sometimes a stock slump of over 60 percent this year.

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All of this scares investors in particular. The Analyst Neil Campling told Business Insider that they were downright “desperate” given the current situation at Meta. In November, Meta laid off around 11,000 employees. Zuckerberg justified this with the weakening economy and increased competition for revenues.

The situation is unlikely to bring the group to its knees completely. It is quite possible, however, that the competition could soon replace the previous social media top dog.

Tiktok could be banned

But maybe it will be completely different – ​​because the up-and-coming video network Tiktok is also facing problems. In this case, however, they have something to do with politics.

The platform is repeatedly criticized for data protection concerns. Several US MPs from both parties have now introduced an initiative to the chambers of Congress that could ban Tiktok in the US in the long term.

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Specifically, foreign social networks that come from countries classified as hostile, such as China or Russia, or are under their influence, are to be banned. Tiktok, whose parent company is Chinese tech company Bytedance, would fall under this – and is even listed by name.

The video app would collect the data of tens of millions of Americans and process it in an unknown way, the critics said. This would have the potential to manipulate feeds and ultimately elections in the United States. In September it became known that there were hundreds of employees at Tiktok and Bytedance who also work or have worked for the Chinese state media.

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Years ago, former US President Donald Trump made an initial attempt to ban Tiktok from the US market – and ultimately failed. Now the idea is even getting backing from the Democrats.

Republican Mike Gallagher compared Tiktok’s actions in the US to allowing the Soviet Union during the Cold War to buy up the newspapers “New York Times” and “Washington Post” as well as major TV stations. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita called Tiktok a “Trojan Horse of China”.

So far, there have only been isolated calls from the EU for a Tiktok ban. Digital Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) had rejected a special law to regulate the app in June.

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Still, a US ban would be a major blow to the network — and possibly its end. Much of the content on the video network originates in the States and is distributed worldwide, becoming viral hits with millions of clicks. If this content is missing, creators could also look around for alternatives in the long term. As you know, there are enough of them.

The winners of the crisis: Linkedin and Youtube

Two large networks have so far been spared major crises. Alphabet (formerly Google), the parent company of the video network YouTube, was the only one that had not recently made extensive job cuts – in contrast to Meta, Twitter and Amazon. But there are rumors that this could follow: According to Forbes magazine around 10,000 “underperforming” employees are to be laid off in the coming months.

The video service YouTube seems to be comparatively stable. The number of users is increasing, and at the same time the platform is constantly implementing new functions – most recently, for example, the “Shorts” format, which is intended to compete with Tiktok and Instagram.

In recent years, the platform has also made greater efforts to ban harmful content, such as conspiracy ideologies, from the platform – which has led to an increase in the quality of the content. In addition, YouTube is so far the only platform that video makers share directly in advertising sales – from next year this should also apply to “Shorts”. This could give the Alphabet subsidiary a head start on Tiktok and Instagram.

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„Do they hate free speech in America?“: Elon Musk greift US-Konzern Apple an

The new Twitter owner Elon Musk continues to heat up the conflict with the iPhone group Apple.

Linkedin, which was long considered a pure professional network, could meanwhile establish itself as a real alternative to the chaos network Twitter. The platform, which has belonged to Microsoft since 2016, seems to be evolving in terms of content: Instead of just showing off jobs, the constantly evolving newsfeed now also contains exciting conversations about all sorts of things.

Anonymous accounts are just as rare here as all the storms of indignation and anger mobs that rage on Twitter. The professional background, namely that of the professional network, enables more serious discussions.

In all cases, it is unlikely that platforms will die entirely. Larger user migrations, however, are likely to be observed in the coming months.

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