Home > 

Naina Redhu’s Twitter Journey: A 16-Year Odyssey from TWTTR to Musk’s Takeover

On October 28, 2022, Elon Musk acquired an unprofitable company at USD 44 million, and it now seems that he is making every desperate attempt to recover his losses. His plan of action included massive layoffs and strict diktats for employees, such as 12-hour shifts with no rest days. Additionally, he planned to make the ‘highly coveted’ blue tick verification badge payable at USD 8 per month (approximately Rs 650 per month).

While the subscription fee for the blue tick has faced significant backlash, with fake accounts obtaining the ‘Verified’ badge, industry experts believe that Musk’s aggressive strategies might jeopardize the social media giant’s future. According to Statista, Twitter had about 23.6 million users in India as of January 2022. However, India accounts for only a small fraction of Twitter’s revenue. The registered entity of Twitter in India recorded Rs 86.39 crore as revenue in FY21, a mere 0.23 percent of global revenue. Despite an 82 percent increase in revenue in FY22 to Rs 156.75 crore, the Indian entity posted a net loss of Rs 31.84 crore for the same fiscal year.

Amidst the turmoil surrounding Twitter and Musk’s daily headlines, we sought insights from someone with a long-standing association with the platform. We had a detailed discussion with Naina Redhu, arguably India’s first Twitter user. Naina shared her 16-year journey on Twitter and her views on the major changes Elon Musk is bringing to the social media platform.

### Since when have you been on the platform? How did you end up signing onto the platform?
I signed up to the platform in 2006, back when it was called TWTTR. I had a job in Mumbai and was very interested in the burgeoning internet scene and blogging was gaining traction, at least abroad, not so much in India. I started my first blog in 2004, so I was quite involved with online developments.

### How was your experience back then?
Back then, I remember clearly that I signed on and was very curious to see what was happening. I saw a few users writing texts on the screen, conversing as if they already knew each other. They were all in Palo Alto, California, planning meet-ups for coffee or pizza. I hoped to find someone in Bombay to do the same, but there was no one else. I initially thought the platform was only for a U.S. audience.

### Is that how you figured out that you were the first Twitter user?
Someone mentioned, ‘I think you might be the first Twitter user from India.’ They then pointed me to an article that listed ‘The first 140 people to sign up to Twitter,’ and I couldn’t find any Indian or India-sounding names on that list. I wrote a blog post titled ‘Am I the first Indian Twitter user?’ Many responded, saying they couldn’t find any other Indian users. While no one confirmed it definitively, it’s commonly believed that I am the first Twitter user from India.

### What drastic changes have you noticed from 2006 to 2022?
One significant change was the character limit increase from 140 to 280 characters, which I feel took away the essence of Twitter. With 140 characters, I had to work hard to compress my thoughts. Now, with the 280-character limit and the ‘thread-system,’ it feels more like a blog.

Another change I fondly remember is the ‘Fail Whale,’ a blue whale that appeared when the platform crashed due to high demand. While its disappearance is great for Twitter’s reliability, I miss the occasional ‘Oh yeah, I saw a Fail Whale, did you?’ moments.

The community aspect of Twitter has dwindled as well. We used to have ‘Tweet-Ups’ where Twitter users would meet in person at restaurants. That personal touch and smaller community feeling are gone now.

Join Get ₹99!

. The platform has shifted towards politics and controversial topics, which isn’t necessarily bad but lacks the personal connection I miss.

### After Elon Musk’s takeover, there have been many changes. Do you think people would be willing to pay for the blue tick?
I’m unsure about that. Screenshots of two badges—a blue tick and an ‘Official’ tag—were shared. They seem undecided about its future. The verification badge has always indicated authenticity, and they’re attempting to change that. The initial plan for Twitter Blue included features like fewer ads. But why pay just to see fewer ads? If they demand money, there should be no ads, though I don’t use Twitter as much anymore.

### Elon Musk said they’re experimenting with different things on the platform. Was it the same earlier?
That’s what I loved about Twitter initially. There was constant feedback and improvement. While Elon Musk is a polarizing figure, people either love or hate him, and there is no middle ground. However, he’s trying something new, and I’m eager to see the results. The significance of the blue tick may change.

### Twitter Blue was introducing the ‘edit’ button. Will this change under Musk’s leadership?
Yes, changes are likely. I’ve survived Twitter for 16 years without an edit button; I wouldn’t pay for it now.

### We pay subscriptions for other services like Netflix. Do you think the USD 8 per month fee for Twitter is worth it?
No. I need to understand the future value of the blue tick. So far, it’s been a mark of authenticity. If it adds no value, I wouldn’t subscribe. Normal accounts still add value to Twitter.

### Don’t you think the blue tick helps differentiate actual/verified accounts from fake ones?
For political figures, a blue tick is crucial. For someone like Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi, it’s important. However, for someone like me, it doesn’t add value. Politicians can easily afford the $8 fee.

### Will the subscription plan be successful in India, given it only offers a verification badge?
I wouldn’t subscribe. Others in India might, but I see no value in paying Twitter. Other platforms, like Spotify, provide ad-free experiences worth paying for. Twitter should improve its ad algorithm instead.

### Could other platforms start their own subscription plans for a ‘no-ad’ policy?
I don’t think so. Instagram’s ad system works well and isn’t as intrusive. Twitter needs better ads, not a subscription model.

### Are people migrating to platforms like Koo or Mastodon?
I’ve tried various alternatives, but none compete with Twitter’s loyalty and first-mover advantage. Unless Musk makes severe missteps, Twitter’s core audience will remain.

Twitter is more talked about now than ever. I’m really excited to see Musk’s future plans for the platform.

Watch the full interview here: [Link]