The Gates Foundation Should Buy Out Twitter's StakeholdersBy http://profile.typepad.com/1237764140s22740 // February 22, 2011 in Twitter
I'm being only slightly facetious.
In the tussle over actions Twitter is taking to protect its chosen economic turf - what business tolerates a user monetizing its system better than it can, at least without taking a cut? - we're running up against an eleemosynary instinct to nurture those non-commercial, social media uses of Twitter that make it (a) beloved by hard core users and (b) immensely important geopolitically.
Twitter's owners don't owe the world a damn thing. If subordinating intellectual, social and polticial uses of the platform is required to make a return on capital, that's fine and that's economic liberty at work.
But non-profits, trusts, foundations are still permitted to participate in the free market. If land can be used and preserved in trust, why couldn't an endowed group run Twitter as a global, public utility?
Twitter is that important intellectually and geo-politically.
The Gates Foundation, or the Clinton Golbal Initiative, or the Rockefeller Foundation, are some of the organizations with the kind of cachet and financial pull that could do this. Or a consortium of billionaires and individual philanthropists could. And while many of Twitter's shareholders would presumably sell out at the right price, perhaps some of them would want to participate in funding the future Twitter's endowment by contributing some of their shares. They deserve the recognition and the opportunity to participate in the democratic Twitter. After all, it's the shareholders' support of the passion of the founders and the work of the early Twitter employees that has given the world an essential tool in the cause of freedom.
Permitted uses of the endowed Twitter should continute to be commercial; part of what makes Twitter so viable is that it has immensely disruptive implications for commerce. But Twitter would return to being an open platform, and it would let any and all profit by building on it and offering services utilizing it. The endowed Twitter would, to paraphrase terminology from Chris Dixon's post (not about Twitter but about platforms in general) yesterday, mitigate developer community risk and encourage application investment by telegraphing ongoing core feature development.
And Twitter would be free to permit uncensored uses as an authentic social network.
Image by webtreats, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.