Heading into the weekend, Twitter’s stock closed below $20 a share for the first time in its history. The bad news continued on Monday.
— Paul Liber (@PaleoLiberty) January 11, 2016
Of course, it’s remotely possible that not every penny of the $243 million value drop was a direct result of Twitter’s inexplicable decision to attack beloved Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos (aka @Nero).
A few dollars of the lost value might be attributable to launching a string of new features and changes that failed to catch on with users, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s leaden trial balloon about abandoning the signature feature of the platform, its 140-character message size limit.
Twitter has been bleeding users to other platforms for years, and probably isn’t going to win them back by transforming itself into a pale imitation of the platforms they departed for.
Wall Street analysts are also said to be worried about Twitter cutting staff without bringing in any exciting new hires, Dorsey’s rather grim requests for patience with a slow turnaround process, years of clashes with outside developers, and the fact that Dorsey divides his attention between Twitter and another company he also manages as CEO.
— Prof. Nick Flor ♫ (@ProfessorF) January 11, 2016
But in all seriousness, picking fights with a substantial segment of its users isn’t helping Twitter in its quest to remain relevant. People are sincerely worried about overt and covert censorship, due to “war on terror” security programs, concessions to authoritarian governments that might otherwise ban social media platforms from lucrative markets, and ideological purges.
Conservatives and libertarians have good reasons to suspect content and user controls implemented for other reasons will devolve into political crusades against them.
In its heyday, Twitter boasted of being an exciting frontier for freedom of speech, an invigorating arena of ideas where the course of history might be changed, 140 characters at a time. No one wants to hang around while it degenerates into the online equivalent of college campus dominated by snotty crybullies.
Stunts like giving people the power to control drones with Tweets won’t restore the reputation for unbridled intellectual energy, constrained by nothing but that fortune-cookie message size limit, that made Twitter a big deal. The stock prices tumbling into oblivion, along with Milo’s verified-account check mark, are sad evidence that Twitter is well on its way to becoming a little deal.