Elon Musk suggests Twitter could open its algorithm “next week.”

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A new tweet by Twitter owner Elon Musk suggests that the company is preparing to open source its algorithm next week — unless, of course, it’s all a joke. (You never know these days!) However, Musk has long been a proponent of the idea that Twitter’s recommendation algorithm should be open source, stated repeatedly that belief even before he took over of the social network and again announcing its intention to acquire Twitter in April 2022.

In response to a tweet today urging him to open source Twitter, Musk noticed “Prepare to be disappointed first when our algorithm is made open source next week,” and then note that “it will improve soon.”

If serious, this would be one of the first commitments to hint at some kind of deadline for the open sourcing of Twitter’s algorithm — and observers will likely be watching to see if they’re actually met.

As AapkaDost’s Paul Sawers reported in December, Twitter is under increasing pressure from others in the wider open source community, including Twitter alternative Mastodon, which saw a surge in usage following Musk’s acquisition of the microblogging network in October.

Meanwhile, Matt Mullenweg, Tumblr owner and CEO of Automattic, recently said his company’s blogging platform would use the same ActivityPub protocol that now powers Mastodon. Soon after, Flickr CEO Don MacAskill began weighing up a similar plan.

Open sourcing Twitter’s algorithm could also help keep legislators and regulators at bay amid increased political interest in how social platforms’ content recommendations work. Not only is the US Supreme Court now hearing arguments about the role the YouTube algorithm played in recommending ISIS videos to users, but there are also talks about the need for TikTok oversight that have heated up after reports that the company manipulated viral trends and even spied on journalists. Twitter hopes to avoid similar scrutiny through open sourcing.

Additionally, Musk could shift focus from how he reportedly asked Twitter engineers to investigate why his own Twitter engagement was declining, which then forced an algorithm change that boosted his tweets — something he now attributes to a bug.

Of course, Musk isn’t the first Twitter exec to suggest that open sourcing would be the best way forward.

In particular, Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey expressed regret last year that Twitter had ever turned into a business in the first place, saying that Twitter should instead have been developed as an open and verifiable protocol. He also shared that same idea with Musk via text messages – this came to light during the legal discovery process related to Musk’s lawsuit against Twitter when he tried to get out of the deal. In the lyrics, Dorsey said Twitter should be based on an “open source protocol, funded by a foundation,” to which Musk replied, “super interesting idea.”

Dorsey is now continuing to build that vision with Bluesky, an open source project spawned from Twitter that is developing a decentralized social networking protocol known as ADX. While Bluesky has yet to publicly launch its app, which would demonstrate its system in action, some people who signed up for Bluesky’s waiting list were emailed a survey last week asking for more information about themselves and their preferred platform. The email hinted that Bluesky was close to being usable, noting that the waiting list had seen more than 1 million signups and that people would be invited to test the Bluesky app in “the coming weeks.”

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