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Is this the end of Twitter as we know it?


Mass layoffs - call from the C-suite to be extremely hard core, and then, mass resignations. Twitter's little blue bird has been caught in some major turbulence. But are declarations of Twitter's demise, with users tweeting farewell, premature? NPR's Camila Domonoske has her thumb hovering over the app's icon.

Camila, thanks so much for being with us.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: Is it still up and functioning?

DOMONOSKE: The site is - let me check - yup, it's still there. Tweets are still loading on the timeline. The risk, obviously, is that this could change, basically at any time, right? Elon Musk laid off a bunch of people. It was the first thing he did when he bought Twitter. And then this week there were more mass resignations. So now the question is really, if something breaks at Twitter, do they have the people on staff they need to fix it? And the bigger question here is not just technological. I mean, a social media platform - its true value is who is on it, right? Like, you can still pull up MySpace as a site, but it's not MySpace anymore, like it was back in the day.

SIMON: Well, I will take your word for that. I haven't looked at it for a while. But what about Twitter users? - 'cause what amounts to a kind of wake has been going on site. But after all, they need to turn to Twitter to hold the wake.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. It is not a MySpace situation yet, right? In fact, Elon Musk has been gleefully asserting Twitter usage is at all-time highs. All those people logging in to tweet farewell - it's a lot of traffic. There is a question, I think, about whether people are using Twitter in the same way that they used to, right? All this chaos did a number on Twitter's credibility.

The ability to buy blue checks, which used to verify that you were who you said you were - that created confusion about which accounts were real. That doesn't matter if you're just there for the memes and the lols (ph). But if you are on Twitter because you care about getting accurate information, that might matter to you a lot. And that sense of trust could be hard to get back. So I don't know. I think it's an open question whether Twitter is going to remain Twitter as it was or become something else.

SIMON: Another open question - what is Elon Musk doing and why?

DOMONOSKE: Why would someone pay $44 billion for a company, then fire most of the people who made it and release and unrelease features while tweeting crass jokes...

SIMON: Yeah...

DOMONOSKE: ...About it?

SIMON: ...A good way of putting it.

DOMONOSKE: That's your question?

SIMON: Yeah, sure.

DOMONOSKE: I am not in the business of explaining Elon Musk's psychology. But I called up someone who kind of is.

ROSS GERBER: I'm the only guy that Elon allows to talk to the media constantly. He should probably be paying me, to be honest.

DOMONOSKE: That's Ross Gerber, a longtime Tesla investor. Musk made a lot of money for Tesla fans like him, and he believes in Elon Musk's instincts. That's why he chipped in some money to help Musk buy Twitter. Here's his take on what's happening.

GERBER: He has to put himself in horribly difficult situations to thrive, and that's just the way he is.

DOMONOSKE: And Tesla, which just a few years ago was in a perpetual crisis, is now actually successful.

GERBER: So he's like, I'm happy. Things are going well. I'm having kids with every woman I meet. You know, what could I do to really make my life difficult? Oh, I'll buy a social media company and try to fix it all in an area that I have very little skill set at doing. That'll be wonderfully challenging for me.

DOMONOSKE: So there's one theory for you. Elon Musk was too happy, so he bought Twitter to make life more interesting.

SIMON: You know, some people just would have bought a puppy. What else could explain this?

DOMONOSKE: All right. Other theories include, maybe he has a grand master plan, and this will all end with a revamped, much-improved, super-profitable Twitter. Or maybe he has a secret plan in the other direction. He's trying to destroy Twitter on purpose so he can declare bankruptcy and restructure the giant debt he saddled the company with. And, you know, maybe there's no plan. I really think you can't discount the possibility that what looks like it doesn't make sense, actually, none of it makes sense.

SIMON: Well, that's a tweet you can pin. NPR's Camila Domonoske on the Twitter beat.

Thanks so much.

DOMONOSKE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Camila Domonoske
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.