What Is Twitter? 2024 Edition

X’s New Video Strategy Is a Pivot to Nowhere
The social-media platform is going video-first by posting every other platform’s videos last.

I had been saving a bunch of articles to put together a "What is Twitter?" type post for 2024. But then John Herrman wrote this post, which is better than what I would have done. Because the reality is that while Twitter is just throwing a lot of ideas at the wall, the core thing they clearly want to be is a video app. Linda Yaccarino has made this overt. And that's obviously because she's the former head of ad sales at a video content company, NBCUniversal. Hammer will find nail.

Except here, with Xitter, the hammer has found a noodle. A nice, big wet one:

At X, the current strategy appears to be a speed-run of the past ten years of “us too” social-media trends, a sort of pivot-to-video 1080 with unclear prospects for landing. It’s getting big personalities to broadcast or at least post longer videos on the platform: Tucker Carlson has a show; Don Lemon almost had a show; Mr. Beast reposts videos sometimes. It’s building a Twitch-style streaming platform. In its new “For You” tab, it’s constantly recommending videos to its users.

So X is indeed now a “video-first platform,” in that it’s full of videos, and videos are often the first thing users see when they open the app. To accomplish this, however, X has employed another industry strategy years later than its peers: It has allowed — or invited — users to fill the platform with videos that originated on other platforms. 

Xitter really is sort of a catch basin of video content from other platforms now. As Herrman notes, this strategy isn't exactly new, as everything from YouTube to Facebook to Instagram has been used for this purpose at various points in their histories. The difference is that Xitter is doing this in 2024 – some 15 years after the initial "pivots to video" started to happen.

At the same time, given what is (or is not) happening with TikTok, Xitter may have oddly good timing here. It's not so much that they're so late to the trend that perhaps it's cool again, sort of like a fashion cycle. It's more that if TikTok were to get banned – or even just the threat of it – has made a catch basin for those videos useful. I don't use TikTok, but I see a ton of TikTok content on Xitter.

If TikTok actually goes away (something which wouldn't happen any time soon, if it does at all), this probably isn't great news for Xitter, unless they can actually reboot Vine in a meaningful way, which, spoiler alert: they won't be able to do. But again, in this limbo period, Xitter benefits. But only to a certain extent:

In contrast, X videos — not to be confused with Xvideos — are downstream from basically every other video site on the internet: X’s “For You” recommendations are frequently ripped from elsewhere, often with watermarks or leftover interface elements from YouTube, Reels, and most of all TikTok. In its own pivot to video, X has remade itself as a video aggregator — it’s going video-first by posting everyone else’s videos last. The money isn’t good. Users are leaving. Most creators thinking about building an audience or monetizing their videos have no reason to think of X before YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram — if Mr. Beast treats it like an unserious afterthought, why shouldn’t they?

In other words, catching all these viral videos may be fine for appearances sake, but when it comes time to monetize them: good luck. Monetizing what are essentially pirated bits of content from other networks will be quickly squashed, and trying to convince the actual video creators to come over will – well, it's not exactly working right now. Maybe porn though?

Being the third or fourth best place to watch aggregated TikTok videos is not an ideal outcome for X, nor is it clear where it’s supposed to lead next; it’s the sort of situation Musk might describe as “cucked.” The post, which ended up aggregating thousands of popular TikTok videos, doubles as a comprehensive catalogue of the sorts of videos the X users have no reason to make for the platform and contrasts sharply with the rare native X videos that do get traction on the platform. To the extent that X is developing a video culture of its own, it’s Liveleak-style gore footage mixed with shrill right-wing polemic interspersed with hard-core porn, all posted by blue-check users trying to monetize it. Try searching for pretty much anything!

So again, I ask, what is Twitter? Sorry, Xitter, now? Herrman concludes:

We know what usually happens when a pivot to video doesn’t take: at a media company, layoffs; at a social-media platform, another pivot, maybe even to video, again. Musk’s X’s exists somewhere between the two, a diminished social-media platform shrinking into something like a publisher, reconfiguring in real time around the obsessions and annoyances of its erratic owner, who appears willing to lose users and money in service of his increasingly political project, involving a gradual pivot to everything.

In the meantime, X’s pivot to video has turned it into a pretty good app for catching up with stray viral videos from around the internet, as long as you don’t mind seeing a mangled corpse every once in a while.

I truly miss old Twitter. And now the nicest thing you can say about the network is that it's a pointless distraction for Elon Musk (you can say far worse things, and many often do, on Xitter, of course). But it's clearly not coming back.