Twitter to soon allow calls and encrypted messaging, says Elon Musk

Call feature will put microblogging platform on a footing with Facebook and Instagram

Elon Musk's Twitter account. The platform will allow users to make calls without revealing their phone number. Getty
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Twitter chief executive Elon Musk has said video and voice calls are “coming soon” to the microblogging platform, the latest move in his goal of turning around the company that he acquired last year.

With the move, Twitter will take on other established apps that offer the same feature, most notably those from Meta Platforms, which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

“Coming soon will be voice and video chat from your handle to anyone on this platform, so you can talk to people anywhere in the world without giving them your phone number,” Mr Musk tweeted on Tuesday.

Mr Musk did not provide a time frame for the introduction of the calling feature and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment from The National.

He said encrypted direct messages “should happen” beginning on Wednesday. He did not specify if calls would be encrypted, a feature which would be similar to WhatsApp.

The proposed move is the latest in a long list of changes Mr Musk has made at California-based Twitter since acquiring the platform for $44 billion in October.

The changes are part of what Mr Musk called “Twitter 2.0 The Everything App” as he announced a revamp of the company last year.

Apps that are multifaceted have become commonplace, giving users access to a range of services without the need to use several apps, and are normally called “super apps” or “ultra apps”.

Having video calls could attract more users to Twitter — another metric Mr Musk has tried to increase. In January, Twitter had about 556 million users, ranking it 14th among social media platforms, the latest data from Statista shows.

Facebook leads with 2.958 billion users. WhatsApp and Instagram have about two billion, according to Statista's figures.

As part of the revamp, Twitter said it was also moving forward with plans to introduce a payments feature, steering it towards Mr Musk's plans to tap into new revenue streams, the Financial Times reported in January.

On March 31, Mr Musk said that the social media company will make “literally everything” open source, part of his pledge to promote transparency on the platform. The announcement was made on the day that Twitter made parts of its algorithm public.

The major shift in the company's direction will allow the public to inspect and scrutinise the social media company's proprietary software.

Mr Musk has also taken controversial decisions such as firing more than half of Twitter's employees and shutting down units and offices globally, raising concerns that there may not be enough people to carry out oversight roles in key areas of its operations.

He also revamped Twitter's verification system by introducing paid tiers in order to receive the blue tick status.

Last month, Twitter increased its character limit to 10,000 for blue subscribers.

Twitter's revenue and adjusted earnings plunged by 40 per cent on an annual basis in December as several advertisers withdrew after Mr Musk took charge of the company, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

In Twitter's last financial report before its acquisition, the company swung to a net loss of more than $270 million in the second quarter of 2022, compared with a net income of about $65.6 million in the same period a year earlier.

Outside of Twitter, Mr Musk last month said he planned to develop a new generative artificial intelligence platform to challenge Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.

The platform, which the billionaire calls TruthGPT, would become a “third option” to what he calls “the two heavyweights” currently dominating the market that has become the new darling for investors.

Updated: May 10, 2023, 7:45 AM