Headlines? Who needs em!

Making Headlines

In case you missed it, X — formerly that one site called Twitter — is no longer displaying headlines for links and articles posted on the platform. Instead, link previews only appear as a thumbnail, with a small and easily overlooked caption in the bottom corner stating the website it leads to.

The overall effect is that now articles look at a glance, or at a rapid doomscroll, nearly the same as regular images, and with no headline affixed, can easily be misattributed. All of which is annoying and gives rise to a whole host of extremely predictable issues.

But Elon Musk, X owner and the mastermind behind the change, seemingly doesn't understand why users aren't enthusiastic about not being able to see headlines anymore.

In response to a post by tech entrepreneur Aaron Levie, who complained that the change made "Twitter far worse for... getting news quickly," an exasperated Musk wrote on Thursday, "Really Aaron, really?"

"You actually believe the media... wow," he added. "Show me a screenshot of before and after and tell me which one is better. Actually."

Eye Sore

For some much-needed context, Musk implemented the change because he believed it would "greatly improve the esthetics [sic]" of the social media platform, he wrote in August.

Which is debatable. But beyond the cosmetic, Musk has also had a longstanding axe to grind with the media, especially "legacy news" media, which he recently professed to "almost never read" anymore.

Recall that Musk has also tried to throttle or otherwise limit access to material by publications like The New York Times, or even freelance sites like Substack. And recall also that he's suspended or suppressed journalists on X he didn't like.

Another ulterior motive? Musk also wants to force people to spend more time on X to boost the amount of original content — and "citizen journalism" — posted on the platform, instead of having them following links elsewhere.

"There is less time spent if people click away," he posted earlier this week.

Misinfo Mania

Advertisers and media outlets might have something to say about that. Note that the site's ad revenue continues to dramatically plummet, and will probably stay its course. Making links more confusing and less eye-grabbing will likely do little to assuage advertisers' concerns that they aren't getting enough traffic from X.

As for the site's actual users: they're not happy either. Many have shared posts spoofing the "esthetic" change.

Some are less serious than others, like simple trolls that trick people into clicking a link when they think they're opening an image, but most point to a fundamental concern: that without the embedding of an article's headline, it's too easy for users to distort its content.

That's worrying on its own. But above all, the new change takes a sledgehammer to the site's basic functionality. Gleaning the news is more annoying, and while authors may type out a headline for their article into a post, people sharing it probably won't.

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