Jack Dorsey was almost euphoric when Twitter announced the sale to Elon Musk about a year ago. The co-founder of the online platform praised Musk as "the singular solution I trust." He believes "with all my heart" that Twitter is now on the right track. Today, a good six months after the takeover was completed, Dorsey strikes a different note. Musk is not the best possible owner for Twitter, he said recently. His sobering conclusion: "Everything has gone down the drain." Dorsey wrote that on Bluesky, an up-and-coming Twitter competitor he supports. He hasn't tweeted in months.

You can't blame Dorsey for having a lot of confidence in Musk. It is not without reason that Musk is considered the prime entrepreneur of our time, with the electric car manufacturer Tesla and the space specialist SpaceX he has achieved groundbreaking. Why shouldn't he also find a magic formula for Twitter, a company that, despite its enormous importance in public discourse, has never even come close to realizing its economic potential? Musk gave himself plenty of advance praise and sounded, alluding to the Twitter logo: "The bird is freed."

This makes it all the more puzzling what happens to Twitter under his leadership. The company is mired in chaos that can hardly be glossed over as creative destruction, and Musk's successor as CEO, whom he has now allegedly hired, faces a gigantic challenge. Twitter has become more unreliable and uncomfortable. There have been repeated disruptions and data leaks in recent months. According to studies, there is more hate speech on the platform, which Musk denies, but in view of his stated stipulation that he wants to moderate content less strictly, it seems like an inevitability.

Workforce shrinks drastically

Users complain that Twitter's algorithm shows them irrelevant content. The rules of the game are constantly changing, and today's innovations may be obsolete tomorrow. One of the few constants is layoffs. Twitter still has around 1500 employees today, compared to 7500 before the sale. Musk may explain this with necessary cost discipline, but such a decimation can hardly be interpreted as encouraging for Twitter's future.

Symptomatic of Musk's erratic Twitter reign was the back-and-forth with the blue ticks in user profiles, one of the most noticeable changes since the takeover. Twitter used to give these hooks to certain people like celebrities as a kind of proof of identity, but Musk decided to integrate them into a paid subscription.

Predictably, non-authentic accounts with names of well-known people became widespread. Musk revised the subscription, but then caused even more confusion with a new version. He took away the former free hooks from many accounts, only to return them to some of them. With all this, it has become opaque who is behind accounts with hooks, Twitter has undermined its own reliability as a source of information.

Success depends on the users – and the advertising

Musk claims that Twitter is well on its way in terms of usage, advertising business and profitability. There are good reasons to doubt this, according to market research data, for example, usage figures have recently gone down. And since the takeover, there has been an increased interest in alternatives such as Bluesky or Mastodon in the Twitter community, to which Musk himself has contributed with provocative statements. True, none of these other platforms has made the breakthrough so far. Nevertheless, the increased willingness to churn is an alarm signal for Twitter.

The fact that he is now announcing his resignation as CEO is a positive signal and gives hope for more prudence in management. As his successor, he has announced in a tweet Linda Yaccarino of the media group NBC Universal. She was not an obvious choice. Her expertise lies in the advertising business. Musk has said that this is exactly what he wants to make Twitter less dependent on.

Perhaps he has come to the realization that in the foreseeable future, advertisers will decide on the economic success of Twitter. A crucial question is how much room for manoeuvre he gives Yaccarino. So far, he has run Twitter like his kingdom, to the detriment of the company. If, contrary to his nature, he managed to take a step back, it would be a chance for a new start.