Elon Musk’s Twitter gamble has already cost him $24 billion – and he’s still digging

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Oh, Elon. When will you learn? Never, if this latest development is anything to go by: according to a memo reported on by the Wall Street Journal, an internal valuation has just placed Twitter’s total value at around 20 billion dollars. Hilariously, that’s less than half of the $44 billion Musk originally paid for the social media site back in October 2022.

But it seems Elon isn’t content with just sitting in the hole he’s fallen into; some unpaid intern has handed him a shovel, and he’s gonna keep on digging down until everyone on Twitter is paying for Twitter Blue – or the site collapses entirely.

Musk’s latest move to drag more people kicking and screaming into $8-subscription land is to reveal more limitations on free accounts; unless you cough up for a Blue membership, your tweets won’t be recommended to other users in the ‘For You’ tab, and non-verified users won’t be allowed to vote in polls either.

Now, any Twitter user with two brain cells to rub together (so, at least half of them) can probably already tell you that the ‘For You’ page is garbage, and it’s really worth sticking to the ‘Following’ tab if you want something approaching the original Twitter experience. But shutting non-paying users out of polls entirely is, well, a dick move from Musk – perhaps he’s scared there might be a repeat of the embarrassing poll where he was told by the site’s user base to step down as CEO.

Opinion: Cheer up – it might never happen

It’s worth bearing in mind that these latest death throes from the apparently-cursed social media platform come directly from the horse’s mouth – that is to say, Elon’s own Twitter account. That means we should take them with a sprinkling of sodium, since Musk has tweeted out ‘upcoming features’ in the past that have never actually materialized.

Musk claims that the changes are ‘the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over’ even though, you know, everything he’s done so far has yet to make any sort of tangible impact on Twitter’s bot account problems. Bots comprise roughly 5% of the platform’s 330 million users, but account for more than 20% of actual tweets in the US. Oh, and he’s getting rid of 2-factor authentication for non-paying users too, which is going to further worsen the site’s security issues.

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Another part of the problem is that despite constantly worsening the free user experience, Twitter Blue is estimated to have made the company just $11 million from mobile users since its soft relaunch after Elon took the reins. That sounds like a lot, but it’s a comically small drop in the bucket for a social media giant like Twitter. Nonetheless, Elon claimed in the aforementioned valuation memo that he believes the company will be profitable as early as next quarter.

I’m putting on my best impression of Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok to say “will it, though?” – Twitter is still burning money despite slashing staff counts (which leads to trouble like this) and is embroiled in a laundry list of legal disputes which are no doubt costing it a ton of cash. To compound the issues further, many of those cases are specifically Twitter being sued over nonpayment of everything from contracted wages to rent owed to, uh, the British royal family. Yup, you read that right.

Now, as a fun (read: horrifyingly dystopian) little thought exercise, let’s contextualize Elon’s massive losses by taking a little look at some of the things he could’ve spent that wasted $24 billion on instead:

  • 21,838,034 iPhone 14 Pro Max units
  • 120,000 copies of the original 1999 shiny Charizard Pokemon card
  • 48 working replicas of Jeff Bezos’ 417-foot superyacht
  • 14 NASA space shuttles
  • At least 2 more Tesla gigafactories
  • Housing every homeless person in the USA for three full years
  • And finally, the entire nation of Montenegro – and with cash to spare, since the tiny European country is estimated to be worth just over $17 billion as of 2023. Perhaps Elon could’ve bought Barbados too.

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