X (Twitter) throttled competitors and news services

X (Twitter) throttled competitors and news services

The Mysterious Slowdown of X’s Connections

Image Source: ZDNet

If you’ve noticed that your connections from X, the site formerly known as Twitter, to popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky, Substack, Reuters, and The New York Times have been a bit sluggish recently, you’re not alone. In fact, it wasn’t your imagination. The Washington Post recently discovered that X was intentionally delaying connections to these sites by a staggering five seconds.

Now, you might think five seconds is insignificant, but in the fast-paced world of the internet, it’s an eternity. In the blink of an eye, or a mere 400 milliseconds for the technically inclined, most users would already be annoyed. In fact, according to Hobo SEO Consultancy, a mere two-second delay in load time is enough for 87% of users to abandon a link.

To ensure faster loading times, a whole industry of content delivery networks has emerged, with companies like Akamai, CloudFlare, and Fastly dedicated to optimizing page load speeds to under half a second. However, what X did to these sites was detrimental to their business. As Sander van Surksum, an Iron/Out Web Performance Consultant points out, intentional slowdowns can be disastrous for businesses. In a digital landscape where every second matters, when a platform as influential as X controls user access, it can significantly impact web traffic and, subsequently, revenue.

X achieved this slowdown by implementing it in their link-shortening service, t.co. When you click on a link on X, it goes through t.co first. Traditionally, link-shortening services like t.co facilitate internet traffic management and user tracking. However, we now know that X took advantage of t.co to intentionally slow down traffic to specific websites. To the best of our knowledge, no social network has ever done this before.

Evidence suggests that X had been engaging in this practice for weeks. The first report of the delays came from a user who experienced the delay while attempting to access a Meta Threads link shortly after X’s launch. Reports about the delayed connections to news sites surfaced on Ycombinator’s forum. A user there reported, “Go to Twitter and click on a link going to any URL on ‘NYTimes.com’ or ‘threads.net’ and you’ll see about a ~5-second delay before t.co forwards you to the right address. Twitter won’t ban domains they don’t like but will waste your time if you visit them. I’ve been tracking the NYT delay ever since it was added (8/4, roughly noon Pacific time), and the delay is so consistent it’s obviously deliberate.”

The New York Times, one of the affected sites, confirmed the delays and expressed their disappointment in not receiving any explanation from X about these intentional slowdowns. Interestingly, when asked about the reports, X responded with a poop emoji. Elon Musk, X’s prominent CEO, has remained silent on the matter, neither responding to queries nor addressing the delays on Twitter.

What’s intriguing is that the sites that experienced these throttling delays were the same ones that Musk had recently mocked or attacked. Many of these sites were, or still are, X’s customers. Coincidence or not, it remains a topic of speculation.

Following The Washington Post’s exposé, the affected sites returned to normal connection speeds. However, this news comes at a time when X is facing financial struggles. Reports of X failing to pay its bills have surfaced, and the platform is rumored to be shutting down one of its revenue streams, Promoted Accounts. This program allows customers to promote their accounts within X’s timeline to attract new followers.

In conclusion, the intentional slowdown of connections by X has raised eyebrows and sparked discussions. While the motives behind X’s actions remain uncertain, the incident serves as a reminder of the power social media platforms hold and their potential to shape web traffic and revenue. Nonetheless, internet users and businesses alike can now breathe a sigh of relief as the affected sites have returned to their normal speeds.

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