Twitter's Cultural Determinism and the Evolution of a Platform

Guy Spier

Hatched by Guy Spier

Jun 26, 2024

3 min read


Twitter's Cultural Determinism and the Evolution of a Platform


Since December, the stock of Twitter ($TWTR) has surged to 50% above its all-time highs, sparking discussions about its product potential and the ability to capture more value. While many factors contribute to Twitter's growth, the biggest bull thesis lies in cultural determinism – the notion that a company's past and present shape its future. In this article, we will explore how Twitter's cultural premises, including its focus on ad revenues, self-contained ecosystem, and obsession with "live," have influenced its trajectory. We will also examine the platform's missed opportunities and recent shifts that indicate a changing cultural mindset.

Twitter's Cultural Premises:

In the early 2010s, Twitter solidified its cultural premises, prioritizing ad revenues over maximizing reach or user growth. Unlike its competitors, such as Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and Unity, who focused on network growth, product enhancements, and total creators, Twitter throttled APIs and third-party developers. The platform missed the opportunity to become a standard protocol for internet communications, limiting its potential impact.

Externally Focused Product Investments:

During this time, Twitter invested heavily in externally focused product initiatives, such as integrating with TV networks, allowing advertisers to buy Twitter ads through Google AdWords, and launching the SeeIt TV Everywhere authentication experience with Comcast. However, these investments did not prioritize product innovation for Twitter users, resulting in modest-to-null improvements. It took Twitter seven years to introduce stories, known as "Fleets," and the touted "top secret" Project Lightning failed to gain traction.

Obsession with "Live":

Twitter's misplaced obsession with "live" content became a significant focus, despite the fact that the platform's best tweets, shares, and ideas were rarely truly "live." The core value of Twitter lies in its follow graph and frictionless sharing, rather than real-time experiences. The introduction of an algorithmic feed default and the rise of non-live platforms like TikTok and Stories highlight the limitations of Twitter's live-centric approach.

Missed Opportunities and Cultural Shifts:

Twitter's philosophical obsession with live content led to missed opportunities in areas like RSS readers, publishing platforms, and longer tweets/edits. The platform's investment in live video also failed to generate significant events on Twitter. Additionally, Twitter's search functionality, particularly for direct messages, remained subpar for years. However, recent cultural shifts, such as the launch of Twitter Spaces and the embrace of subscription/user fees, indicate a changing mindset.

Embracing New Products and Revenue Models:

Twitter's introduction of non-live products like Revue newsletters, Fleets, and Spaces demonstrates a shift towards ambient hangouts rather than strictly live experiences. Furthermore, the platform's focus on helping creators, influencers, and thought leaders build high-revenue businesses on Twitter marks a significant departure from its previous approach. By embracing subscription/user fees and diversifying revenue streams beyond advertising, Twitter aims to increase both the platform's value and its capture.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Utilize the power of cultural determinism: Companies should recognize the impact of their cultural beliefs and values on their future trajectory. Cultivating a culture that fosters innovation, adaptability, and user-centricity can lead to long-term success.
  • 2. Prioritize user experience: Instead of solely focusing on external partnerships and ad revenues, platforms should invest in product enhancements that prioritize user experience and engagement. This can lead to increased user satisfaction and ultimately drive revenue growth.
  • 3. Embrace new revenue models: Diversifying revenue streams beyond advertising can provide stability and future-proof the platform. Exploring subscription models, user fees, and supporting creators can help capture more value and align the platform's interests with its users.


Twitter's cultural determinism has played a significant role in shaping its past, present, and potential future. By recognizing the limitations of its previous cultural premises and embracing new directions, such as non-live experiences and subscription models, Twitter aims to unlock its full potential. While the platform still faces challenges, its cultural shifts indicate a promising path forward. By understanding the power of cultural determinism and taking actionable steps, companies can navigate their own evolution and drive long-term success.

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