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Can Twitter Survive By Becoming A User-Owned Co-Op? (salon.com) 124

What's going to happen now that Twitter's stock price has dropped from $66 a share to just $18? An anonymous reader quotes Salon: A small group of shrewd Twitter users and shareholders have come up with proposals to fundamentally restructure the way Twitter is controlled, to turn the company into a public service by removing the need to feed investors' ceaseless appetite for hitting quarterly growth benchmarks... Sonja Trauss, a Bay Area housing policy activist, and Twitter shareholder Alex Chiang proposed earlier this year a resolution for the company's recent annual shareholder vote to promote ways to get Twitter users to buy stock in the company, such as offering ways to buy shares directly through the Twitter website and mobile app. If many individual Twitter users each owned a small piece of the company, then they could participate collectively (through the annual shareholder voting process) in steering the direction of the company.

The idea makes sense from a labor standpoint. Twitter's value comes from user's tweets, which provides the backbone for digital advertising revenue. Twitter also sells this user-generated data to third parties that use it mainly for market research. This bloc of user-shareholders could theoretically overtake the control major institutional shareholders...have over the company. Because a lot of owners of a few shares of the company would have little to lose if the stock price doesn't grow or wavers, Twitter would be less beholden to meeting Wall Street's often brutal expectations.

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Can Twitter Survive By Becoming A User-Owned Co-Op?

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  • That isn't... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @07:38AM (#54550445) Homepage Journal
    That isn't a Co-op. It is just trying to sell stock to individual investors. These people have no idea how public companies are run. Unless you own a significant portion of the shares you aren't changing anything.
    • Re:That isn't... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday June 05, 2017 @09:06AM (#54550807) Homepage

      Yeah, I'm not sure how this is supposed to work with a publicly traded company. Like, ok, users buy a bunch of shares, and then what? If it looks like it's driving up the price, it's just going to encourage a bunch of speculators to buy in. The fad passes and the buying-spree ends, and the price drops again. Any of the users who bought in still don't have control, and meanwhile have probably lost money. And even that's only if a substantial number of users buy into it.

      It only seems like a good deal for existing shareholders hoping to drive the price up a bit before they sell. Am I wrong? Am I missing something?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        "It only seems like a good deal for existing shareholders hoping to drive the price up a bit before they sell."

        That sounds like it's close to the right idea. The current owners don't see a future for Twitter and want to dump it. If they dump it, the company will probably go down and no more Twitter. This proposal is basically saying to the users, hey, if this thing is of value to you then buy a share or two. If enough of you do that, then Twitter won't die (this year).

        It's a way of getting money from us

        • The current owners don't see a future for Twitter and want to dump it. If they dump it, the company will probably go down and no more Twitter.

          Sounds good to me. There should be celebrations if that happens.

          It's a way of getting money from users without saying the dirty subscription word.

          Yep, and I seriously doubt they're going to get all those twits to chip in enough to keep the lights on.

    • That isn't a Co-op. It is just trying to sell stock to individual investors. These people have no idea how public companies are run. Unless you own a significant portion of the shares you aren't changing anything.

      If it's voting stock, and it's spread out among the membership, then sure it's a kind of co-op. I'm not changing anything at my local food co-op by myself, either. But I still get back some money in relation to having a share, and I get to vote.

      • It's technically potentially a co-op but not in a way the cooperative movement would recognize as being within the spirit of co-ops. Cooperatives are, indeed, supposed to be owned by the people who work for them, and as users are content generators it could be argued that's what's going on here.

        ...but users wouldn't see their "working for Twitter" in terms of relying upon it for their livelihoods, which is what a "worker" in a cooperative generally does. And it's not as if Twitter doesn't employ people w

        • I thought it was the users of a co-op that benefited, in direct relation to their level of use. That would mean the largest commenters would get the largest shares.
        • There are both worker's co-ops and customer's co-ops. One cannot say that the first class is 'true' co-op while the second class is not.

    • I thought the largest users of a co-op got the money from a co-op proportionate to their use. That would be the largest contributor of comments.
    • That isn't a Co-op. It is just trying to sell stock to individual investors. These people have no idea how public companies are run. Unless you own a significant portion of the shares you aren't changing anything.

      This. It's a stupidity to think it can be rescued this way, as if the ownership are complete bumblers that teens and 20-somethings would have any idea about what to do. They would vote on a presentation by a seductive jackass and ride the company into the ground anyway.

      Now if peeps on your tweets gave you a profit share, so to speak, people would be more motivated to use it, and produce quality tweets. Like YouTube.

  • What a sense of ownership that must feel like!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 05, 2017 @07:48AM (#54550497)

    after all they spend most of the time telling me what some fuckwit on twitter thinks about something. or a celebrity fuckwit thinks about something else.

    easier than doing some research and writing some content, eh?

  • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @07:54AM (#54550525)

    Perhaps I'm being cynical here, but it almost sounds as if someone wants to unload his shares in Twitter onto the only demographic dumb enough to buy shares in Twitter.

  • Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @07:55AM (#54550533)
    Honestly I wish Twitter would just die and not be replaced with anything like it. I think society would be much better off in the long run and the media on the internet would stop acting like the opinions of nobodies who live in their parents' basements were crucially important. But on to the point at hand.

    There's nothing in this plan to stop institutional investors from buying up large numbers of shares and effectively gaining control and doing exactly what the proposers are trying to stop. It's hard to get people to pay for something they get for free and I just don't see users of Twitter being willing to pay to save it. There are 725 million or so shares of Twitter stock available. That requires an awful large number of people to buy 2 or 3 shares each. That's an unrealistic goal.
    • Re:Won't work (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @08:08AM (#54550583) Homepage

      The most serious problem with Twitter is not who gets involved or who it highlights. It is Twitter's core approach to conversation. 140 characters do not provide enough room to make a real argument or explain anything in detail. Instead, posts devolve into cheap point-scoring and the use of slogans that signal one's tribal affiliation. This pushes people out of the "middle" and towards some outlier perspective -- maybe "pro" or "con" on the original question, or maybe "con" on the Internet or humanity in general.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        You aren't supposed to make a complete, detailed argument on Twitter. You make a short, concise point and if required include a link to the fuller argument and supporting evidence.

    • Re:Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gringer ( 252588 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @08:58AM (#54550775)

      Twitter is like a cut-down version of a global IRC with fancy filtering. If twitter disappears, I expect that something else will quickly replace it.

      • Lemme just make #deplorables invite-only, and kickban all of the splinter channel #BasketOfDeplorables.

        • by johanw ( 1001493 )

          Excelent idea. Then Hillary can live in her own bubble for another 4 years and be even more surprised when the actual real-life results of the next election come in.

    • by jdavidb ( 449077 )

      . I think society would be much better off in the long run and the media on the internet would stop acting like the opinions of nobodies who live in their parents' basements were crucially important

      Right, we should stop allowing voting.

  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @08:02AM (#54550567) Homepage

    Can? Yes. Will? No!

  • Most likely I will be modded to hell but I cannot understand the point of Twitter: I just cannot compress my thoughts to 140 characters. Also my brains cannot process such incomplete ideas anyways: when I'm reading tweets and I feel like my brains want to implode because I feel like I'm not getting the data I want to get. IOW, most tweets are basically the bait for proper pieces of information.

    So, what's twitter then? A service where you can publish news titles or share significantly downsized photos? Enl

  • Layoffs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 05, 2017 @08:28AM (#54550643)

    How the hell does twitter lose money? Why does it have 2500 employees? What the hell does it spend $3 Billion a year on?

    The problem with twitter is cost containment. The folks running it don't know how to run a business, they just know how to court investors.

    I'm not calling for draconian MBA cuts that would gut the company, but I am generally curious on why they're spending ~$800 Million per year (2015) on RnD. Their product is already made, they only need a few people to make micro improvements to it. I don't see how they can justify spending the entire market cap of AMD in a year (2015 numbers).

    Cutting the RnD budget by 3/4ths would cut the redline in half, and would have no impact on their core product.

    I think MBA's running tech companies typically kill the company. But in this case, twitter really needs one of those slash and burn old school industrialist from non-tech industries.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Twitter is actively banning libertarian and conservative users because they are getting too close to the dark evil truth about the people who run and own Twitter. Like CNN and ABC and NYT, it isn't about money anymore. Gab.ai is picking up all the banned users and is sworn to destroy the Left. Do the homework, you'll learn about all of it.

    • Twitters R&D goes to two primary objectives. 1) Filtering/censoring, and 2) Data mining.

      I'm amazed it's that much money myself, but we know that they have invested heavily in those two areas. Those same two areas happen to also be why their stock has tanked. People distrust the company, and going co-op won't necessarily change either of those two issues.

      Twitter should die, just like most of the propaganda outlets in the US should die. Since fringe groups send them scraps, it's a very slow and painfu

  • No matter who owns Twitter, they still need a reliable revenue stream to keep the lights on. Getting users to buy shares will only make them lose money if the company goes the way of Yahoo.

    • by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @09:20AM (#54550867) Homepage Journal

      To make any money, they need a much more compelling product. At the moment, a measurable number of people get "all" the followers. 99% of people only get their friends as followers, and maybe not even that many. As such, for most people, the only way to get any attention is to be a troll or whatever - low value tweets designed to inflame or defame. Since your account has 5 followers, you can easily ditch it (or let it get banned) and start a new one.

      On the other hand, celebrities and famous/interesting people value their accounts highly. They've only got it all to lose though - they're not trolling or inflaming arguments, they're just posting their own brand of whatever it is they post. They just get loads of abuse from the low-value accounts.

      Thus, by accidental design, Twitter has an inherent imbalance - the people you want to retain are the biggest targets of the kind of activity you want to suppress. Suppressing bad activities is as good as impossible because the people doing it think nothing of just rotating accounts.

      Possibly the only was for Twitter to 'survive' is to create a reputation system similar to /. karma. However, followers and retweets are about as unreliable a measure of 'reputation' as they come, so they'd need some other tools to get reputation information, and they'd need to make it low-value-rotated-accounts proof too. Not easy to do, but I don't imagine impossible either.

      As for the 'co-op' - it's gonna have to be a penny stock before any investors will go for that idea. By that time though, it'll probably be a dead platform - although we'll see, it may fail in the market faster than its users can be convinced to go elsewhere. Certainly, governments are queuing up to find ways to give them higher costs of doing business.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Twitter would be less beholden to meeting Wall Street's often brutal expectations."

    Like making money?

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @08:42AM (#54550703)

    Given their "$18.31" stock price. Call when they drop below $0.02 per share.
    They are a for-profit business no chance in heck of going to any kind of co-op, sorry. Investors won't be on-board for that.

    • Given their "$18.31" stock price. Call when they drop below $0.02 per share.
      They are a for-profit business no chance in heck of going to any kind of co-op, sorry. Investors won't be on-board for that.

      Investors on board? They've got divestors about to walk the plank! They're tossing this out there in the hope that a more few suckers will come along and bring them lifeboats.

  • I *SO* want to see the lamest of all social media disappear off the face of the earth! =D
    • by johanw ( 1001493 )

      Maybe Trump can buy it, fire most of the useless employees and keep those required to keep it running. Then at least they can't threaten to kick him off.

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        What makes you think Trump is qualified to run anything. He's already shown he's a complete ditz by how he hired his White House staff.

      • If there is one thing worse than a twitter user it's a loyal trump voter

  • I may be alone in this, but I get enough value out of Twitter that I'd pay $5 a month for it.

    Twitter has basically replaced RSS feeds for me. I follow my favorite journalists, some non-profits I support and the feeds of some hobby websites. Not only do you see all their new posts (just like an RSS feed) you can communicate back to whomever is posting.

    Being able to interact with local journalists is great! I'm on a non-profit board and it's enabled us to get interviewed on local radio shows and gotten a

    • Hello I just wanted to let you know I'm blocking you. You actually seem very nice but everyone who likes twitter turns out to be a pretty shitty person. I personally hold it to be a red flag somewhere worse than having three cats but less than having a cupboard full of psych meds.

        so best of luck to you and try not to feel too bad.

  • The shareholders are currently pushing for arbitrary growth marks because they can ... and because they are now in a guaranteed can't-fail model as people turn to twitter to find out what the POTUS is rambling on about tonight. If the whole company imploded this afternoon they would be bailed out by the government. The shareholders might as well insist that Twitter start funding a mission to Mars at this point, the US Government wouldn't allow them to go bankrupt.
  • Why not just let users verify his or her identity and (probably some real-name policy too--but that isn't popular around here so I'll shush), and for a fee issue certs for digital signatures on email?
  • What's going to happen now that Twitter's stock price has dropped from $66 a share to just $18?

    Well, I hope the price drops to $0 and the company dies, taking the site with it.

  • I don't think listening to "activists" will help twitter in any way

  • Twitter would be less beholden to meeting Wall Street's often brutal expectations.

    The economic problem Twitter faces is that it is not beholden enough to the expectations of Wall Street, and instead tries to cater to particular political and ideological sensitivities.

    Nevertheless, I think having Twitter be owned collectively would be a solution to that problem, probably in the sense that death is a solution to the problem of illness.

  • Does anyone on either side really want Trump on Twitter.
    Perhaps everyone should leave Twitter until Trump is Banned!
    • Does anyone on either side really want Trump on Twitter.
      Perhaps everyone should leave Twitter until Trump is Banned!

      Well, #covfefe was free and enjoyed it more than most movies, games, TV shows, meals, etc.

  • Although essentially, "going-co-op" might be fine-and-dandy for the *users* of Twitter and probably the shareholders have little to lose at this point, it's essentially gonna be a death spiral of a tech company.

    Stock is the currency in which startups pay their rockstars. The exodus has already begun. [qz.com] Many folks who might have some inkling of a new good ideas in the company in a death spiral probably leaves for greener pastures. Keeping or recruiting any rockstars will involve throwing lots of stock (swea

  • If microblogging turns out to be important for society, then decentralizing it somehow is necessary. We can learn from the mistakes of email and xmpp/jabber as well as the success of DNS on how to design robust systems that are not centrally controlled and do not depend on the viability of any one business entity.

    I suspect 10 years from now we won't use Twitter. And in 20 years we'll have forgotten about them, as we've forgotten about Myspace, ICQ, Alta Vista, GeoCities, Ask Jeeves, Angelfire, and to some e

    • (The TV show Halt and Catch fire reminds me a bit of this era)

      Yeah, but halt and Catch Fire's walled garden of choice seems to be a clone of QuantumLink, not Prodigy.

      • I definitely agree that Halt and Catch Fire is a big nod to Q-Link. But I mean in that era there were lots of online services, each was a walled garden. And I always thought Joe MacMillian was a cross between William von Meister and John McAfee. (and not so much Steve Jobs). But the show is a little tough to pin down because it blends several companies and people together and creates a lot of fiction.

        Once the statute of limitations runs out on the various crimes committed in the computer industry of the 70'

  • It's been around a decade, I signed up for it and gave it a solid month of regular use. At the end of the month I stopped using it entirely and have never missed it in my life. I was following people, had followers, found people who were doing interesting stuff, and all that. The signal to noise ratio was far too low to be remotely useful, the interface is terrible, etc.

    I'm no stranger to social media or technology. I can enumerate good reasons for Usenet news, Reddit, Facebook or Instagram, but Twitter just seemed to be an endless stream of drek designed to make you nervous and interrupt your day 4000 times if you wanted to keep up.

    I don't know how they expect to make money from it, either.

  • Twitter used to be about the free exchange of ideas and thoughts. Now it's an SJW infested viper pit where the slightest deviation from SJW opinion is banned. Twitter forgot their original mission and is suffering as a result. If they can't figure out what their users actually want they don't deserve to survive.

Memory fault -- core...uh...um...core... Oh dammit, I forget!

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