Elon Musk plans small change to make X less painful to use

The new (Twitter) logo rebranded as X displayed on mobile with Elon Musk seen in the background, in this illustration. on 03 September 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.
(Image credit: Photo illustration by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Every once in a while, X (formerly Twitter) CTO Elon Musk realizes he's made a rash or simply bad decision and reverses himself. Oh, wait. That virtually never happens. Even today's announcement that X is bringing back article headlines is a half-reversal, at best.

In August, X made the head-scratching decision to strip article headlines out of tweets. It was a small, annoying change that ultimately turned one of X's key features, its usefulness as a source for breaking news, into a hunt for stories about breaking news. Following the change, article tweets looked like out-of-context images. Tweet text doesn't link to anything, and if you want to read a story, you have to know to click on the image.

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It's no secret that the frustration factor of using X has been growing ever since Elon Musk took the reins more than a year ago. He's done a lot, like stripping verifications from millions of users and making sure only those willing to pay a subscription fee get them (unless you have over a million followers or are an official body). He apparently,rejiggered the algorithm to promote paying customers, and then he changed the name of the platform; that last act tanked 17 years of brand equity.

Put in that context, this most recent change is small potatoes. Still, there is now some light at the end of the Twitter tunnel ('X tunnel' doesn't have the same ring to it). Musk tweeted late on Wednesday that, "In an upcoming release, 𝕏 will overlay title in the upper potion[sic] of the image of a URL card."

A half measure

Now, this is not a true fix. We're still not getting linked URLs in tweets. Instead, the links will appear in some fashion on the images (also known as 'cards'). The size of the links, color, what 'upper portion' means, and how X will make the links stand out on busy backgrounds are unclear.

On the other hand, this small change should make X almost as scannable and usable as it once was. It might be a bit clearer that the image is not just a random tweet but is a portal to an important story.

Why Musk made this change is unclear. Maybe it's an olive branch to all those upset over his apparent support for antisemitic Tweets, or how the site may have put ads from major brands next to similar, abhorrent tweets. Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino have made it clear they do not support that rhetoric, and that the reports are twisting the data. They've even sued.

Whatever the truth, Musk appears to have grown slightly more self-reflective in recent days, and maybe he's taking a fresh look at some recent decisions to see if he can try to make X as appealing as it once was in its Twitter days.

It's doubtful, but he can try.

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Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.