The Unbundling of Twitter

Sep 2, 2022

Twitter is a company, not a protocol. While the product has had an undeniable impact, it sometimes feels like it's in limbo – whether it be the looming acquisition (or not) by Elon Musk, high turnover, stagnant (until last year) feature velocity, and polarizing content (some of the best, some of the worst).

There have been a few attempts to unbundle Twitter by leveraging its social graph for new forms of content (off of the app).

Long-form: Substack provided an outlet for long-form content that would have lived on Twitter. Newsletter writers (e.g., Sahil Bloom) use threads as a funnel for subscriptions. Discover mainly happens on Twitter, so the company is attempting to capture this alpha by its acquisition of Revue.

Audio: There was a time when many pundits (and investors) thought Clubhouse could dethrone Twitter as the public forum.

Yet both long-form and audio have been unsuccessful at unbundling Twitter. Leveraging the underlying Twitter network is a growth hack but not a moat in itself. The network effects accrue to Twitter, not your platform.

But different angles might work at unbundling Twitter.

  • Twitter, the protocol. Farcaster, a sufficiently decentralized web3 version of Twitter. Unlike Twitter's missteps with its API access, Farcaster's API is open by default. Already, there are interesting types of applications being built on the protocol.
  • Twitter, for interest groups. (1) there is no moat around technically building a Twitter-like product, and (2) there are large, non-overlapping subcommunities on Twitter (fintwit, tech twitter, crypto twitter, politics).

    Truth Social is a right-wing Twitter clone. Farcaster carves out the crypto niche. Will these communities be large enough to become sustainable businesses? Maybe. Different user bases can be monetized differently (e.g., crypto twitter through financial products, Truth Social financed through campaign coffers).

Twitter is attempting to address some of these issues by introducing different discoverability and visibility scopes to Tweets – communities (interest groups), flocks (friends only), and reply settings for each Twitter. Time will tell if it can be a cohesive experience in one app, or if Twitter will be unbundled.

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