Elon Musk's first year at X: One of the most tumultuous sagas in business history

The National looks at key dates when the billionaire made controversial moves in an attempt to turn around the social media platform

Elon Musk's decision to replace Twitter's famous blue bird logo with X has significantly dented its brand value. Getty Images
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Elon Musk is marking his first year at the helm of X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, on October 28 – and to say that a lot has happened over the past 12 months would be an understatement.

We look back at the saga between Mr Musk and the social media company, highlighting key dates that triggered a series of events that defined one of the most tumultuous acquisitions and transitions in business history.

December 21, 2017: An innocent tweet?

Not everyone knows this but on this day, Mr Musk sends out one of his first tweets, simply saying, “I love Twitter”. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey responds with, “Same”, before another user says, “You should buy it then”.

Mr Musk's answer? “How much is it?”

It is unclear if this tweet triggered anything in Mr Musk to make his famous offer about five years later.

January 31 to April 4, 2022: Taking stock

Mr Musk begins to buy Twitter stock as he quietly begins to build his stake. On April 4, he becomes the company's biggest individual shareholder, and this is made public owing to Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. Twitter invites him to be a member of its board, as long as he does not own more than 14.9 per cent of shares.

On April 9, he declines the seat on the board. Two days later, he files an amended disclosure with the SEC so he can buy as much shares as he desires, setting off speculation on his intentions.

April 14: The beginning of the saga

Mr Musk makes a surprise $44 billion offer, at $54.20 a share, to buy Twitter in what is described as a hostile takeover bid. The company's board says it will review the bid.

The following day, Twitter triggers a “poison pill” – allowing shareholders to buy stock at a discount if their ownership exceeds 15 per cent – to deter Mr Musk.

April 25: It's a deal

After much wrangling and barbs traded – including locking horns with then Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal over the company's estimates of spam accounts – Twitter gives in and agrees to be bought. A deal is set to be finalised before the end of 2022.

Mr Musk then says he will promote free speech on the platform, tackle the spam problem and make it open source, among other promises.

April 29 to May 4: Raising funds

After selling Tesla stock worth about $25 billion in the six months up to this point, Mr Musk says he has received more than $7.1 billion in new equity funding from various investors to help finance his Twitter takeover.

On May 26, he personally commits $6.25 billion to the Twitter acquisition.

May 7: Grand plans

Mr Musk lays out a pitch, seen by the New York Times, in which he intends to boost Twitter's revenue by five times to $26.4 billion by 2028.

His projected revenue in six years will mean a compound annual growth rate of more than a quarter from the $5 billion reported by Twitter in 2021.

June 16: First face-off with Twitter staff

Mr Musk's first open discussion with staff at Twitter includes views on freedom of speech, remote work, aliens and job cuts.

That last one proves to be a sign of things to come.

June 22: Board endorsement

Twitter’s board recommends that shareholders approve the $44 billion sale of the company to Mr Musk. The proposed deal is fair and in the best interests of the social media platform and its stockholders, a US SEC filing shows.

July 29 to October 4: Yes, no, yes

Mr Musk files paperwork stating that he is terminating his transaction to purchase Twitter, claiming the company has failed to meet requests to give him relevant business information.

Lawsuits ensue – Mr Musk files one to terminate the deal on August 30 – but, eventually, he decides to push through on October 4.

October 28: 'Let that sink in'

Mr Musk completes his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter after tumultuous months of back and forth. A day before, he turns up at Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco with a kitchen sink to drive the point home.

On the same day, he fires Mr Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and legal policy, trust and safety boss Vijaya Gadde.

October 29: Minus ads

General Motors suspends paid advertisements on Twitter and says it will only resume when it has a better understanding of what will happen to the platform with Mr Musk in control.

More companies express concern about the direction Twitter intends to take under its new leadership.

By November 26, Twitter has lost at least half of its major advertisers, representing a loss of about $750 million, non-profit watchdog Media Matters reports.

October 30: 'Fire' starter

The New York Times and Washington Post report that Mr Musk plans to fire staff at Twitter. The following day, the Post says this will be a quarter of its global workforce.

The company begins to lay off staff on November 4. The following day, Twitter cuts its global workforce by half, triggering a lawsuit from some employees. The layoffs are estimated to be about 3,700. Entire teams, including key units such as public relations, are scrapped.

However, Twitter backtracks a bit on November 7 and asks some of those fired to return.

On November 17, Mr Musk gives Twitter staff an ultimatum to sign an agreement that they will work with “hardcore” intensity or leave the company. This ultimatum leads to the exit of a large number of employees. About 1,200 more employees quit on November 19.

On November 27, Twitter says, “we're recruiting”. By January 21, 2023, Twitter's headcount had fallen to 1,300.

Soon thereafter, users and celebrities begin to leave Twitter as they look for alternative platforms.

October 31: Tightening up

Mr Musk says Twitter's verification process is being revamped, without giving any further details, in an apparent attempt to rein in spam accounts.

November 1: Tweeter-in-chief

Mr Musk becomes Twitter's chief executive and dissolves its board to become sole director.

November 6: Making it tick

Twitter starts giving users who agree to pay a monthly subscription of $8 a verified check mark, days after Mr Muskfloats the idea of a different verification system.

However, on November 9, Twitter previews the “Official” label, as confusion reigns over the paid blue tick system.

November 17: Talk of long-form tweets begins

Mr Musk talks about having longer tweets. The character limit for a tweet at the time stands at 280, having been doubled from 140 in 2017.

On January 8, 2023, he says long-form tweets will be introduced in February. True to his word, a 4,000-character limit is introduced on February 9.

On March 23, he floats the idea of 10,000 characters with simple formatting tools. On April 14, Blue subscribers are finally given the privilege of using this feature.

November 25: Amnesties and colourful tiers

Mr Musk says he wants to grant an “amnesty” for suspended accounts, which online safety experts predict will lead to a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.

On December 2, online safety campaigners claim hate speech has increased on the platform since he took over.

On the same day, he says the company will introduce new coloured user tiers: a “gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates. Painful, but necessary”.

December 12: Office auction

Twitter auctions off a host of items from its San Francisco headquarters, part of Mr Musk's attempts to cut costs and stem losses. On January 19, 2023, a bird logo statue from Twitter's headquarters is sold for $100,000.

Speaking of auctions, on January 12, 2023, Twitter says it will consider auctioning off popular user names to make more money.

December 13: Blue is back – for a fee

Mr Musk reintroduces the Twitter Blue subscription offering weeks after it was pulled back because of imitation accounts – with Apple users paying more.

The new service will cost $8 a month for those who sign up via the web browser, and $11 for iPhone users.

On February 18, 2023, Twitter says it will be charging its users to use two-factor authentication to secure their accounts via text message.

On March 31, 2023, Mr Musk defends his controversial pay model, saying social media platforms not following suit will be swarmed by bots, resulting in failure.

Celebrities, meanwhile, are warned of impostors as the April 1 deadline for subscribing to blue ticks looms. Twitter eventually removes those blue ticks from users who do not pay up.

On September 19, 2023, Mr Musk suggests that Twitter will make users pay a “small” fee to use the service.

December 18: Stepping down as chief executive

Mr Musk puts out a poll asking his followers whether he should remain Twitter chief executive or not.

He promises to abide by the results. The poll ends with about 58 per cent saying he should step down, which he does.

On December 21, Mr Musk says he will resign once he finds someone who is “foolish enough to take the job”.

January 31, 2023: Into payments

Twitter said it is moving forward with plans to introduce a payments feature on its platform to tap into new revenue streams, as the platform applies for licences across the US.

February 3: Ad-sharing for creators

Mr Musk said Twitter will start sharing advertising revenue with some content creators, “ads that appear in their reply threads”, without giving further details.

February 6: Breaking even?

Mr Musk claims Twitter has been saved from bankruptcy, is in a stronger financial position and on track to break even. This appears to be good news given that he had revealed, soon after acquiring the company, that it was losing $4 million a day and at risk of going bankrupt.

On March 4, the Wall Street Journal reports that Twitter's revenue and adjusted earnings fell by 40 per cent on an annual basis in December as several advertisers withdrew.

February 22: Opening up

Mr Musk says Twitter's algorithm could be opened up to the public as soon as the end of February.

Twitter does open up parts of its code to the public on April 1, and Mr Musk says the company will open source “literally everything”.

April 11: X doesn't mark the spot?

Twitter merges with Mr Musk's X Corp as the company is positioned to be an “everything app”. The company eventually rebrands as X – apparently his favourite letter – and its famous blue bird logo is replaced with a stylised “X”.

Twitter drops famous bird for new X logo

Twitter drops famous bird for new X logo

Experts had issued warnings that this would harm the brand's value – and this turns out to be true as the move wipes off about $20 billion from its brand value.

Before this, on April 4, Mr Musk temporarily replaces Twitter's logo with the Shiba Inu dog associated with the Dogecoin cryptocurrency.

May 12: A new chief executive

Mr Musk confirms former NBCUniversal advertising head Linda Yaccarino will become X's next chief executive. She begins her new role on June 6.

Among her pledges is to make X the world’s “most accurate real-time information source and a global town square for communication”. She also says X could be profitable in 2024.

Mr Musk remains X's chief technology officer and chairman of the board.

June 1: Sign in to view tweets

Twitter requires users to have an account and be logged in, in order to view user profiles and tweets, a move Mr Musk claims will prevent data from being “pillaged so much”.

Twitter's restrictions on viewing its content affect its presence on Google, as tweets no longer show up at the top of the search engine's results.

August 18: Dropping the blocks

Mr Musk says the “block” feature – which he says “makes no sense” – will soon no longer be available for users. This draws concern from users who say it is a shield against things such as hate speech and online harassment.

October 20: For a premium

X says it plans to launch two new premium subscription models. However, the company does not disclose the subscription rates and the launch timetable.

October 26: Hello, voice and video calls

X announces the introduction of voice and video calls – idea was first floated by Mr Musk on May 10. While only premium subscribers can make calls at present, all accounts can receive them.

Updated: October 28, 2023, 1:21 PM