Distributed ownership for Twitter

As a company, Twitter has basically failed. Growth has stalled, profits are not on the horizon, product development has slowed down and competing social networks are innovating faster. But Twitter is a unique service and has tens of millions of dedicated users with engagement metrics that are eclipsed only by Facebook and Snapchat.

Let us look at the potential acquirers for Twitter:

  • Facebook: They already own the social space and would probably prefer to spend money to buy Snapchat rather than Twitter. Facebook has already been trying to entice influencers and add more of a “news” capability.
  • Microsoft: They just bought LinkedIn and have made it clear that their focus in on the enterprise. Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft is unlikely to make a stupid move to buy a stagnating loss-making social network.
  • Apple/Google: Both of them have no play in the social space and could big aggressively for Twitter. But neither have any social in their DNA and know it. Apple is very conservative about acquisitions and is unlikely to spend >$20 billion on a loss-making leaderless company. Google has thrown the towel in the social network wars and may not have the stomach for another fight.
  • Private Equity: Twitter has no profits so a leveraged buyout is unlikely. If it ever is available for less than $10–15 billion, it would be a tempting target for private equity players.
  • Verizon: They hope to increase their ad revenues with Twitter and may actually overspend and acquire Twitter. But they will drive it into the ground.
  • Walt Disney: This was a surprise to me and would be a wild card. A company like Twitter with its abuse issues does not seem to fit into the Walt Disney universe. But you never know.
  • Salesforce: This was a surprise as well and I cannot decipher why would Salesforce want to waste money and effort in buying and integrating Twitter. It would make way more sense to acquire SaaS companies that have a better cultural, revenue and product fit with Salesforce.

Distributed ownership with virtual currency

As I was thinking about Twitter’s ownership, I realised that it’s main strengths are:

  1. News: Twitter is the fastest news source and the most democratic. It is a democratic media service with a completely open graph.
  2. Open Graph: Anyone can follow anyone else. Technically, it is an open network — something that no other social network provides.

What if Twitter is owned by it’s users via some virtual currency, maybe even with Bitcoin? Users can buy equity in the network for any amount and can then spend it to view tweets and links. Media houses who want to keep their content free can setup their accounts such that users can view their tweets and content for free. Media houses who want to get paid for their content can setup affiliate programs and users will pay a few satoshis for each read. But when they like or retweet, they will also earn some of the virtual currency.

More importantly, this will allow Twitter to become a payment platform with >150million users. Many merchants will be ready to accept payments via Twitter and the value of the network and its related virtual currency will grow. Virtual payment platforms have faced issues with seeding their networks with enough users — this approach would solve that problem in one swoop.

Naval Ravikant posted very interesting tweets recently about blockchains and distributed ownership: https://twitter.com/naval/status/779750844430426112

Such an approach for Twitter may very well work. It is likely that someone will need to fork up a few billion dollars and build the governing organisation for the network. The governance can be inspired by the bitcoin, Apache or GNU communities. The features, roadmap and infrastructure will be maintained by the governing organisation.

Understandably, this will not happen with Twitter. But it intrigues me if there will emerge a blockchain based, appcoin backed media+social+payment network in the future.