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Business May 3, 2023

Six Months of Twitter Under the Rule of Elon Musk



Six Months of Twitter Under the Rule of Elon Musk

Twitter has barely been out of the headlines since its takeover by Elon Musk last October in a deal worth $44 billion. Partly these have stemmed from the raft of significant changes made to its policies. Though company-wide layoffs and Musk’s brain-fart tweets have also got tongues wagging.

Musk’s Twitter buy was the social media takeover story to end them all, and the first six months with the mogul at the wheel have been eventful to say the least. In this article, we’ve summarized some of the most notable stories of his reign so far.

Liftoff, layoffs

Musk made a memorable entrance to Twitter HQ, holding a sink in his hand to indicate “Let that sink in.” Things appeared to start on a positive note when he added, “Meeting a lot of cool people at Twitter today.”

However, he did not waste any time in laying off employees in huge numbers, starting with then-CEO Parag Agrawal, the CFO, and the head of legal, policy, and trust.

The exact number of employees dismissed under Musk’s leadership is unclear. However, within the first three weeks of his tenure, nearly two-thirds of the company’s 7,500-person workforce were purged.

Furthermore, the company had lost almost all of its senior leadership. And the number of people with access to Twitter’s internal systems fell to just over 2,700, according to two sources who saw the numbers in the last week of November.

The layoffs have included long-tenured engineers, some with more than a decade of experience at the company, as well as a growing list of corporate leaders.

Advertisers sever ties

Since October, many corporations and companies have cut ties with the platform for advertising.

Major corporations such as Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, General Mills, Mondelez, Pfizer, and United Airlines have paused or pulled their advertisements from Twitter due to concerns over hate speech and conspiracy theories.

International ad and consulting firm Interpublic, which represents American Express, Coca-Cola, Fitbit, Spotify, and dozens of other major corporations, has also stopped advertising on the platform. That cut caused Twitter to lose $24 billion in value since Musk took over.

Introduction of paid verification subscription

Without a doubt, one of the most popular changes on Twitter since Musk’s takeover is its Bluetick subscription feature.

In November, the Tesla chief introduced a feature called “Blue for $8/month,” which brought a drastic change to Twitter’s policy by providing a verification checkmark known as a Bluetick. This feature also offers additional benefits such as the ability to edit tweets, half-ads, longer tweets, text formatting, bookmark folders, NFT profile pictures, etc.

However, it has also raised concerns that Twitter Blue’s additional features make the platform more elitist. Interestingly, though, the change has been copied by Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, whose subscription service Meta Verified lets users add a blue checkmark to their accounts.

Twitter for everything app

Reportedly, Musk has long wanted to turn Twitter into an “everything app.” The maverick social media typhoon envisions a future where Twitter becomes like China’s WeChat, offering a wide range of services beyond social media.

This would involve integrating features such as e-commerce, messaging, and even transportation services, all within the Twitter platform.

Musk’s ambition is apparently to turn Twitter into a comprehensive digital ecosystem that people can rely on for all their needs. Watch this space.

Q4 revenue tumbled by 35%

Twitter’s fourth-quarter revenue plummeted by 35% year-on-year to $1.03 billion, as advertisers held back spending after Musk’s takeover.

More than 500 advertisers pulled the plug on ad spending after the takeover, with revenue representing 72% of the company’s own targets for the quarter under review.

Twitter faces an imminent finance charge of $13 billion and has projected first-quarter revenue to come in at $732 million, down 39% from a year ago.

Controversial 2FA policy change

Back in February, Twitter faced criticism from experts when it announced that SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA) would only be available to Bluetick subscribers.

The move was seen as contradictory to Twitter’s goal of improving security and sparked concerns that users would be confused by the sudden change. Despite SMS-based 2FA being considered less secure than other methods, some questioned why verified users were being given unfavourable treatment.

Twitter leverages AI to detect manipulation

The Twitter boss is also working on AI despite his agreement to pause developing the technology.

As MetaNews previously reported, Musk’s announcement comes after Twitter has faced criticism for its handling of disinformation and propaganda on its platform.

Musk, who often uses Twitter to voice his opinions and ideas, believes that his AI platform can identify misinformation campaigns and protect users from having their opinions manipulated.

His initiative is part of a broader trend toward the use of AI to monitor and regulate social media platforms.

Algorithms go public

Twitter made its timeline algorithm code public on GitHub, allowing developers to access and use it.

The move came with the expectation that developers would have more freedom to create new features and enhance the platform’s functionality.

The announcement generated a buzz among social media users, with some hoping to find out why certain posts were prioritized.

According to a Twitter blog post, the algorithm prioritizes likes and retweets over replies when selecting tweets to feature on the For You timeline, with each like given a 30x boost and each retweet a 20x boost.

Monetization avenues for content creators

Musk has announced that the social media platform will now allow creators to monetize their content through a new feature called “Subscriptions.”

This move is part of Twitter’s efforts to generate more revenue and compete with other social media sites.

Creators can charge subscribers $2.99, $4.99, or $9.99 per month and will receive 97% of revenue up to $50,000 in lifetime earnings.

Additionally, Twitter plans to promote creators’ work and give them full ownership of their content.

Aside from the controversies and policy changes, Musk has reached some personal milestones since taking over. Indeed, he has become the most followed individual on the entire platform, surpassing former President Barack Obama.

Musk also paid for the blue tick verification of three celebrities, after they declined to sign up themselves.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.


Metaverse Gaming Market Expected to Reach $119.2 Billion by 2028



Metaverse Gaming Market Expected to Reach $119.2 Billion by 2028

The metaverse gaming market is estimated to encompass $22.7 billion in 2023 and projected to reach $119.2 billion by 2028, according to a recent report from ReportLinker.

The metaverse has been a hot cake in the tech industry in recent years and was boosted by Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to change Facebook’s name to Meta. However, the market has been limping towards AI, which stole the spotlight from virtual reality.

“The global metaverse in gaming market size is estimated at USD 22.7 billion in 2023 and is projected to reach USD 119.2 billion by 2028 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 39.3%,” stated the report.

The growth of the metaverse in the gaming market is expected to be fuelled by several significant factors, including the dynamic and evolving landscape of adjacent technology markets “such as extended reality (XR),” which encompasses “virtual reality (VR),” augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).

Expectation of rapid growth

In 2021, the gaming industry experienced rapid growth, with billions of people playing video games globally and generating over $193 billion in revenue.

Gaming companies quickly became early adopters in exploring the potential of the metaverse. Looking ahead to 2023, it was projected that the metaverse will continue to reshape the gaming landscape.

A survey from last year shows that about 52% of U.S. gamers believe the metaverse will change the game industry.

“According to the survey, just over half (52%) of gamers believe the metaverse will change the video game industry and a plurality (41%) think that the metaverse will have a positive impact on the industry (vs. 25% who disagree),” reads the survey report of Globant and polling firm YouGov.

Moreover, 40% say the buzz around “metaverse gaming is warranted,” though nearly “one-third (30%) were undecided” on that subject.

Who are the big players?

The metaverse is not just a single platform, virtual experience, or game; it is an entire world recreated to provide an immersive experience. Gaming is one of the many experiences in the metaverse that is powered by AI, VR, and AR.

Whenever it comes to gaming, some of the giant games like Fornite, Unreal, and Roblox come to mind.

Read Also: Meta Seeks to Boost Its Metaverse Gaming Credentials

And those are expected to be significant players in the metaverse due to their existing influence and capabilities in the gaming industry, as a report from 2022 states.

“As gaming platforms like Fortnight gain functionality and evolve into technologically advanced social meeting places, it becomes more likely that a functioning Metaverse, with an independent economy, systems, and processes is in our future,” reads the report.

Fortnite has transformed into a social meeting place, offering interactive events and branded experiences.

Unreal’s powerful engine enables immersive media experiences, while Roblox’s user-generated content and virtual currency have attracted millions of users. These factors position them to thrive in the evolving metaverse landscape.

Europe expecting significant growth

Europe is expected to witness significant growth in the gaming metaverse market, with the second-highest CAGR during the calculation period.

The UK, Germany, and France lead the way in technology investment, while Russia and Spain are also adopting new display technologies.

“The substantial growth of the virtual world immersive interactive gaming industry in Europe is a crucial driver for the gaming metaverse market in this region,” stated the report.

The immersive interactive gaming industry in Europe, along with the demand for AR, VR, and MR technologies in the entertainment sector, serves as a driving force, indicated ReportLinker.

Initiatives such as the European Association for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (EuroVR) and projects like Augmented Heritage and International Augmented Med (I AM) contribute to market growth.

With increasing startups in extended reality, particularly in Sweden, Europe is poised for increased growth in the gaming metaverse markets.

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Chinese City Pledges $1.42bn to Boost Metaverse Industry Growth



Chinese City Pledges $1.42bn to Boost Metaverse Industry Growth

Chinese city Zhengzhou has announced a plan to boost the metaverse industry by providing a significant 10 billion yuan ($1.42 billion) fund for local companies’ growth and development.

Although the People’s Bank of China banned digital assets in September 2021, the Asian power centre seems liberal towards the metaverse.

Under the new government’s draft, metaverse companies relocating their headquarters to Zhengzhou will have the opportunity to grab a start-up capital investment of up to 200 million yuan ($28.34 million).

In addition, the municipal government will provide a promising opportunity for companies operating in the metaverse sector within the city.

For each project that receives certification as viable by the government, companies will have the chance to secure a substantial grant of 5 million yuan ($710,000), regardless of their headquarters location.

Moreover, the government is offering other benefits such as rent subsidies for the metaverse company within Zhengzhou.

Open for public to review

The draft is now available on the municipal government’s website for feedback and review by the public.

“The public is now open to solicit opinions, and all sectors of society are welcome to put forward their opinions and suggestions,” reads the translation.

Hence, the purposed plan is only a draft to date, and the government has not mentioned the specific date of the fund allocation.

The metaverse-related sectors in Zhengzhou are expected to generate annual revenues exceeding 200 billion yuan ($28.34 billion) by the end of 2025, according to the municipal government.

Amid speculation about China lifting an absolute ban on crypto, the public is taking this draft as positive news for the industry.

“More positive news for crypto from China, that’s great,” wrote a Redditor in reaction to the news.

“One positive thing after the other,” another agreed, hopeful of China’s liberal step towards the crypto industry.

Will China overtake the West?

Western industry leaders like Meta wanted to be the leaders in the metaverse, but are now pivoting towards AI. Whereas China appears to be positioning itself as a potential metaverse hub.

As part of its commitment to spearheading China’s digital advancement, Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, has also launched the China Metaverse Technology and Application Innovation Platform.

“The Metaverse is a vague concept and every [company] is interpreting it in its own way. In China, it’s very much a government-led concept,” said Brady Wang, an associate director at tech market research firm Counterpoint.

The Chinese government is clearly keen on the technology.

“The key difference [in the metaverse] between China and the rest of the world is it’d be heavily regulated in a centralized manner,” said Zhengyuan Bo, a partner at China-focused research firm Plenum.

Bo emphasised that the monetization of digital assets within the metaverse is constrained due to limited space for growth.

“I think in a decade or two, China will play a bigger role in everything than the US,” speculated one Redditor.

“America hates China because China doesn’t do what America wants it to. They hate it because it exists. I’m happy China is dedollarizing,” another Redditor expressed.

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Microsoft Accuses CMA of Irrationally Blocking $68.7bn Activision Takeover



Microsoft Accuses CMA of Irrationally Blocking $68.7bn Activision Takeover

Microsoft has blamed Britain’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) for “irrationally” blocking its $68.7 billion takeover of Call of Duty video game maker Activision.

The tech giant announced its plan to acquire Activision to “bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone, across every device,” back in January 2022. The proposed takeover aimed to bring Activision’s popular franchises, like Call of Duty, under Microsoft’s umbrella.

“Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard for $95.00 per share, in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, inclusive of Activision Blizzard’s net cash,” stated the company.

Read Also: Google Opens Up Access to its Search Labs with Generative AI

However, its bid faced regulatory obstruction amid concerns over industry consolidation. The deal’s block provoked Microsoft to appeal, heightening anticipation for the outcome and its potential implications on the gaming landscape.

The regulatory body blocked Microsoft’s takeover of Activision in April, saying it would encourage market monopolies and stifle competition in the growing video game streaming market.

EU offers favorable conditions for businesses

The company has accused the regulator of making “fundamental errors” while blocking its deal.

Microsoft has claimed the CMA had not taken “proper account of three long-term commercial agreements which Microsoft had entered into with the other party” in the filing with the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

After the ruling, Microsoft president Brad Smith slated the regulator, suggesting the decision conveyed a “clear message” that the European Union (EU) offered more favorable conditions for starting a business in comparison to Britain.

Additionally, Activision, which is also the creator of the popular mobile game Candy Crush, accused the UK of having an unwelcoming business environment, stating that it was “closed for business.”

Hence, while the CMA has halted the acquisition, the EU has given the green light for the merger.

Need for broader understanding

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt expressed his belief that regulators should understand their “wider responsibilities for economic growth” following the blockage of the deal.

“I would not want to undermine that at all, but I do think it’s important all our regulators understand their wider responsibilities for economic growth” stated Hunt.

One of the reasons companies like Microsoft and Google are interested in investing in the UK is due to the presence of independent regulators that are not influenced by politicians, argued Hunt.

‘Takeover won’t be unfair’

The fact that the deal was blocked by the UK but welcomed by the EU has made headlines. Evidently in giving the green light, EU officials believe Activision’s takeover by Microsoft won’t be unfair.

In the meantime, it is still awaiting a confrontation with the US Federal Trade Commission which has filed a lawsuit to block the deal. The trial is scheduled to start in early August, with a decision expected by the end of the year.

“Where we diverged with the CMA was on remedies,” stated Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief.

She stated that a 10-year free license was granted to consumers, enabling them to stream all Activision games they hold licenses for via any cloud service.

“And why did we do this instead of blocking the merger?” she questioned.

“Well, to us, this solution fully addressed our concerns. And on top of that, it had significant pro-competitive effects.”

However, the Chief Executive of the CMA Sarah Cardell reiterated her support for the decision, emphasizing the regulator’s objective to establish favorable conditions for competition that would foster the growth of both large and small companies.

“I don’t find that we are operating sort of, broadly speaking, in a hostile environment,” stated Sarah.

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