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Twitter’s future is newsletters and podcasts, not tweets

With Revue and a slew of other new products, Twitter is trying hard to move past texting.

Twitter’s future is newsletters and podcasts, not tweets

We started with 140 characters. What now?

Image: Liv Iko/Protocol

Twitter was once a home for 140-character missives about your lunch. Now, it's something like the real-time nerve center of the internet. But as for what Twitter wants to be going forward? It's slightly more complicated.

In just the last few months, Twitter has rolled out Fleets, a Stories-like feature; started testing an audio-only experience called Spaces; and acquired the podcast app Breaker and the video chat app Squad. And on Tuesday, Twitter announced it was acquiring Revue, a newsletter platform. The whole 140-characters thing (which is now 280 characters, by the way) is certainly not Twitter's organizing principle anymore. So what is?

Twitter was always just about speed. The initial 140-character limit that became associated with the platform was a technical limitation — required to fit everything into a text message, then the quickest way to reach people — not a statement about brevity being the soul of anything. Many of the moves Twitter has made over the years have been in service of making Twitter even faster: faster to show users good stuff with algorithms, faster to publish with Fleets, faster to spread information with RTs and quote tweets. Even when Twitter decides not to do something, the reasons usually come back to speed. Take the much-desired edit button: One reason Jack Dorsey has given for not including one is that it "means we'd have to delay sending that tweet out … we'll probably never do it."

Rather than think of Twitter as a social network or a 140-character writing tool, it's helpful to think of Twitter the way Dorsey does. "At its core Twitter is public messaging," he said in 2016. "A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly."

That tweet came in part in response to a Recode story that claimed Twitter was considering expanding its text limit to 10,000 characters. Dorsey didn't quite acknowledge the plan, but he didn't shoot the report down, either. He also explained why longer-form text might be a powerful part of Twitter. "We've spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it," he tweeted (in a Notes app screenshot, of course). "Instead, what if that text … was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That's more utility and power."

Increasingly, Twitter is also thinking about what Twitter looks like outside of its own apps. With Project Bluesky, the company is investigating turning Twitter into a protocol rather than a platform, so the Twitter that users know today would be just one way to tap into the social graph and content flowing through it. And with Revue, Twitter is heading into users' email inboxes. Revue appears to be a good fit at Twitter, actually: Its platform has always focused on curation, making it easy for newsletter writers to grab a bunch of links, add commentary and send it to subscribers. Which sounds an awful lot like Twitter — only longer.

The Revue acquisition, and some of Twitter's other recent moves, also make clear where the company is headed as a business. It's leaning into working with creators, trying to help people build audiences and make money on the platform so that they'll keep spending time there. Twitter is way behind on this front. Twitter is, for most creators, a marketing vehicle, a public way to send fans to the Instagram/Twitch/TikTok/Substacks that make them actual money.

By acquiring a newsletter provider, Twitter brings at least one part of that in-house. "Revue will accelerate our work to help people stay informed about their interests while giving all types of writers a way to monetize their audience," Twitter's Kayvon Beykpour and Mike Park wrote in the blog post announcing the acquisition. The same could soon be true for Breaker with podcasts, and Spaces with audio events. If 280-character Twitter can continue to be a powerful marketing engine, but all that marketing can drive toward Twitter's other, higher-fidelity messaging tools, Twitter stands to be a useful home for lots of creators. And, of course, if creators stay, so do users.

When Dorsey said last year that Twitter was thinking about what a subscription model for Twitter might look like, these are almost certainly the products he was thinking about. "$9.99 a month for the really good tweets" is a tricky line to walk for an ad-based business, and it's not in line with the way Dorsey has always thought about Twitter. (After all, is there anything slower than a paywall?) But paid newsletters, paid podcasts, ticketed Spaces events and all manner of other similar products could add new revenue streams. Twitter could also be trying to make money from creators themselves, too: It has at least run surveys asking how users would feel about paying to upload longer videos, get better analytics, or add custom badges to their profile.

There's no guarantee any of this will work. Twitter's history with integrating new products is spotty, and many creators are still wary of the company after it was so quick to kill Vine. But this is what Twitter wants to be: the internet's universal communication tool, with all the new features that requires.

Protocol | China

China’s era of Big Tech Overwork has ended

Tech companies fear public outcry as much as they do regulatory crackdowns.

Chinese tech workers are fed up. Companies fear political and publish backlashes.

Photo: Susan Fisher Plotner/Getty Images

Two years after Chinese tech workers started a decentralized online protest against grueling overtime work culture, and one year after the plight of delivery workers came under the national spotlight, a chorus of Chinese tech giants have finally made high-profile moves to end the grueling work schedules that many believe have fueled the country's spectacular tech boom — and that many others have criticized as exploitative and cruel.

Over the past two months, at least four Chinese tech giants have announced plans to cancel mandatory overtime; some of the changes are companywide, and others are specific to business units. ByteDance, Kuaishou and Meituan's group-buying platform announced the end of a policy called "Big/Small Week," where a six-day workweek is followed by a more moderate schedule. In early June, a game studio owned by Tencent rolled out a policy that mandated employees punch out at 6 p.m. every Wednesday and take the weekends off.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

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Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
Caitlin’s legal and compliance experience encompasses both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. As Director of Regulation and Compliance at Chainalysis, she helps leading financial institutions strategize and build compliance programs in order to adopt cryptocurrencies and offer new products to their customers. In addition, Caitlin helps facilitate dialogue with regulators and the industry on key policy issues within the cryptocurrency industry.
Power

Brownsville, we have a problem

The money and will of Elon Musk are reshaping a tiny Texas city. Its residents are divided on his vision for SpaceX, but their opinion may not matter at all.

When Musk chose Cameron County, he changed its future irrevocably.

Photo: Verónica G. Cárdenas for Protocol

In Boca Chica, Texas, the coastal prairie stretches to the horizon on either side of the Gulf of Mexico, an endless sandbar topped with floating greenery, wheeling gulls and whipping gusts of wind.

Far above the sea on a foggy March day, the camera feed on the Starship jerked and then froze on an image of orange flames shooting into the gray. From the ground below, onlookers strained to see through the opaque sky. After a moment of quiet, jagged edges of steel started to rain from the clouds, battering the ground near the oceanside launch pad, ripping through the dunes, sinking deep into the sand and flats.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

People

Facebook’s push to protect young users is a peek at the future of social

More options, more proactive protections, fewer one-size-fits-all answers for being a person on the internet.

Social media companies are racing to find ways to protect underage people on their apps.

Image: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash

Social media companies used to see themselves as open squares, places where everyone could be together in beautiful, skipping-arm-in-arm harmony. But that's not the vision anymore.

Now, Facebook and others are going private. They're trying to rebuild around small groups and messaging. They're also trying to figure out how to build platforms that work for everyone, that don't try to apply the same set of rules to billions of people around the world, that bring everyone together but on each user's terms. It's tricky.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Power

Who owns that hot startup? These insiders want to clear it up.

Cap tables are fundamental to startups. So 10 law firms and startup software vendors are teaming up to standardize what they tell you about investors' stakes.

Cap tables describe the ownership of shares in a startup, but they aren't standardized.

Illustration: Protocol

Behind every startup, there's a cap table. Startups have to start keeping track of who owns what, from the moment they're created, to fundraising from venture capitalists, to an eventual IPO or acquisition.

"Everything that happens that is a sexy thing that's important to the tech world, it really is something having to do with the cap table," said David Wang, chief innovation officer at the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati law firm.

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Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

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