Twitter's new features may cure your fears about Elon Musk's takeover

An illustration of Elon Musk drawn by thongyhod looking perplexed at falling Twitter logos
(Image credit: Shutterstock / thongyhod / Twitter)

Elon Musk just bought Twitter and now the entire internet is on fire (or at least, it feels that way). It's likely that some big changes will be implemented when the dust starts to settle, but Twitter users can look forward to some great new features while we wait to see what Musk has planned for the 16-year old social medial platform.

Firstly, you can now choose to turn closed captions (often abbreviated to CC) on or off whenever you want.  This isn't the first CC feature from Twitter, but it does look to be the most convenient, and this updated CC function will complement other accessibility features that Twitter is releasing at the moment, including the highly anticipated ALT badge that allows input for image descriptions.

Another feature being rolled out is the ability for iOS users to create their own GIFs for the platform. Video can be captured on your iOS device in-app and easily converted into a GIF to, as Twitter describes it, "capture your vibe". 

The functionality of this looks rather limited as there are no edit features that allow you to apply a filter or effects, but this could be a great asset for content creators who want to spend less time editing social content outside of the app.

Speaking of GIFs...

This isn't the only new GIF-related feature on the horizon, as it looks like Twitter is currently developing something that will allow users to attach photos, GIFs, and videos to a tweet at the same time. This was spotted by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who claims to have found references to the feature within the Android app back in July 2020, though nothing was visible at the time.

Don't fret if you're an iOS user either as it does look as though references have been found for the same feature on the iOS version of the app. This is all clearly still in a developmental stage so we don't know when the feature will be made available to the public, but here's hoping it's soon.

Lastly, Twitter has announced that it will be prohibiting misleading ads that contradict climate change, the established scientific consensus. This declaration was made on Earth day (Friday, April 22) on the official Twitter blog.

The blog states that "This month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a new and alarming report, underscoring the urgency of the climate crisis – “immediate and deep emissions reductions,” they wrote, are necessary to turn the tide on global warming.

Now more than ever, meaningful climate action, from all of us, is critical. Today – on #EarthDay2022 – we’re sharing more about our work to serve the climate conversations happening across Twitter, plus the latest on our own sustainability commitments."

There was little information on how this will be regulated, with Twitter simply affirming that the ban on offending advertisements will be guided by  "authoritative sources, like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports".

Still, Twitter has the goal of its data centers to use a 100% carbon-neutral power source by the end of 2022, and the company does seem intent on hitting that deadline. 

The blog post also reads "To better serve these conversations, misleading advertisements on Twitter that contradict the scientific consensus on climate change are prohibited, in line with our inappropriate content policy. We believe that climate denialism shouldn’t be monetized on Twitter, and that misrepresentative ads shouldn’t detract from important conversations about the climate crisis."

It's worth pointing out the obvious here: Elon Musk has nothing to do with any of these new features, but it's likely that he will start development for implementing some of his own in the coming weeks. We won't know what the billionaire has in store for his latest toy for at least a few months, though we wouldn't be surprised if an announcement is made in advance that will outline planned changes.

Analysis: What does Elon have planned for Twitter?

Elon Musk and Twitter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Musk might be planning to fast-track the already-under-development Tweet Edits feature given he's already tweeted in support of its implementation. This will further push his public appeal, but whatever else he may have up his sleeve is a mystery.

In a release on the acquisition, Musk said, "Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.

"I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spambots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it."

What we do know is that Musk wants to ensure Twitter supports free speech from all sides, though there's some confusion over what this could actually mean, given there's no empirical evidence to support that it doesn't already.

He may also revisit some user bans, including that of former President Trump and Infowars creator Alex Jones. You can peruse the list of current Twitter bans and suspensions over on Wikipedia, and given how many of those blocked from the platform have a history of pushing misinformation, conspiracy theories and extremist viewpoints, it's natural that some current Twitter users would have concerns over them returning to the platform.

Musk might also push NFTs and cryptocurrency using Twitter's platform, much as he has used his own account. This has led to claims that he uses market manipulation tactics because of his position of power, a valid criticism, but one that his lawyers have pushed back on.

Still, investors and backers will be most interested in Musk's growth plan and how he can transform the platform to generate more revenue from existing users. His ability to manifest money and business-savvy mind could be a real asset to the company, but just because something is marketable, doesn't mean that it'll retain its userbase or following.

Social Media buyouts have gone badly in the past. Hopefully, Musk has had time to study what happened to Tumblr after Yahoo's acquisition and is prepared to learn from its mistakes, lest a mass migration away from Twitter occurs to a more welcoming space. With Facebook's userbase tanking, Twitter's potential transformation or desecration could be the spark that brings us closer to The Internet 2.0.

Jess Weatherbed

Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.