Musk's latest X-periments: No more headlines, old posts vanish, block gets banned
If advertisers weren't happy before, this is sure to win them over
Elon Musk's seemingly arbitrary decision making was on display over the past few days at the site formerly known as Twitter, most recently in the billionaire's decree that X will strip titles and text from links on the platform, leaving only a lead image behind.
Musk confirmed early this morning that the headline-stripping decision came from him directly, only adding that the move "will greatly improve the esthetics" [sic] of his ailing social media plaything.
News of the move was initially broken by Fortune, which said it had viewed internal material from X that confirmed all descriptive information would be expunged from links, essentially forcing X users to add their own text, lest their tweets simply appear to be mysterious outbounds to undescribed web pages. Fortune's unnamed sources inside Twitter claimed the objective was to "reduce the height of tweets," thus allowing more content to fit on a user's screen at a time.
Fitting more posts on a page would likely boost engagement numbers too, we note.
The unnamed source also shared that advertisers weren't happy with the move, but X was going ahead with it anyways. Ad revenue has reportedly halved at X since Musk's takeover, and new CEO Linda Yaccarino's mandate to revitalize ad revenue may not be made any easier by the decision.
Musk also said yesterday that X would do away with Tweepcred, an internal analysis tool that uses an implementation of Google's PageRank algorithm to determine a user's influence (on a scale of 1-100) on Twitter/X. News of Tweepcred's existence was revealed when Musk opened up Twitter's algorithm to external scrutiny.
Musk's statement that Tweepcred "will be deleted. Not simply renamed. Deleted" came in response to Twitter users complaining that Tweepcred meant their accounts would be penalized for interacting with low-reputation accounts.
The pair of orders follow claims from the world's richest man on Friday that X would also eliminate blocking from the platform, except for direct messages, which many users feared would enable more harassment on the platform.
Musk's block-killing statement echoed his earlier calls for the elimination of the block list on Twitter in favor of a stronger form of mute, which prevents the muter from seeing anything the mutee has posted. Unlike blocking, however, the muted individual can still see content posted by the person who muted them.
Both Google Play and Apple's App Store require social media apps to give users the ability to block offensive content and users. Whether X would run afoul of that requirement is unclear – by retaining a mute option, X may be allowed to remain in mobile app stores.
None of that matters if X collapses entirely
All of Musk's decrees rely on one key element: X has to survive, and not even Elon is sure it can.
"The sad truth is that there are no great 'social networks' right now," Musk xeeted on Saturday. "We may fail, as so many have predicted, but we will try our best to make there be at least one," the X owner added.
- Musk's X caught throttling outbound links to websites he doesn't like
- Cage match: Zuck finally realizes Elon is full of twit
- X-rated auction sells last vestiges of pre-Musk Twitter
- X tries to win back advertisers with brand safety promises
Musk's post came not long after news broke that tweets published prior to December 2014 containing images and links shortened by Twitter weren't displaying properly, spurring some to speculate that Twitter had removed the media entirely.
It took X until Monday to acknowledge the issue, which it said was caused by "a bug that prevented us from displaying images from before 2014." The issue, X's Support account said, was resolved, no images had actually been deleted, "and the issue will be fully resolved in the coming days."
X offered no additional explanation. Still, it's possible there is a ready explanation – or at least a coincidence that X could clear up if it would provide more details.
In 2016, Twitter added enhanced URL enrichment that "provides a web site's HTML title and description in the Tweet payload, along with Operators for matching on those," essentially allowing for tweets to be indexed and searchable while still retaining shortened URLs from t.co, bit.ly, and other link shorteners.
X states in its documentation that metadata would be pulled for URL enrichment going back to December 2014 – the point from which earlier tweets were experiencing errors loading images.
Whether the weekend's image trouble was due to X's instability since Musk's takeover, or related to Musk's other decrees to change how X displays and handles links, is unclear, as usual – the company only responded to our questions with an automated response that it would get back to us soon.
Since eliminating the poop emoji, X has yet to actually get back to us. ®