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Inside Elon Musk’s first meeting with Twitter employees

A week after ordering mass layoffs, Musk took questions from Twitter’s remaining staff for nearly an hour. Here’s everything he said.

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Elon Musk in front of the Twitter logo.
Musk spoke to Twitter employees today.
Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

With barely 20 minutes' notice, Elon Musk gathered Twitter employees on Thursday to address them directly for the first time.

During a nearly one-hour Q&A session, which The Verge obtained a recording of — you can read a full transcript below — Musk was blunt about Twitter’s financial state, his ambition to turn Twitter into an app for payments, his love for “gizmos,” and that he now expects employees to work with a “maniacal sense of urgency.”

Musk spoke about offering banking services via Twitter:

I think there’s this transformative opportunity in payments. And payments really are just the exchange of information. From an information standpoint, not a huge difference between, say, just sending a direct message and sending a payment. They are basically the same thing. In principle, you can use a direct messaging stack for payments. And so that’s definitely a direction we’re going to go in, enabling people on Twitter to be able to send money anywhere in the world instantly and in real time. We just want to make it as useful as possible.

What circumstances could lead the company to declare bankruptcy:

We just definitely need to bring in more cash than we spend. If we don’t do that and there’s a massive negative cash flow, then bankruptcy is not out of the question. That is a priority. We can’t scale to 1 billion users and take massive losses along the way. That’s not feasible. I don’t think we will.

Twitter’s remote work policy:

Now, if somebody’s contribution is so significant that they can overcome the communication difficulties of being remote, then they should absolutely remain at Twitter. But it will be a higher bar. They have to be that much better to overcome the communication issues of being remote. There are plenty of people at Tesla and SpaceX that do work remotely, but it is on an exception basis for exceptional people. And I totally understand if that doesn’t work for some people. That’s the new philosophy at Twitter.

Let me be crystal clear. If people do not return to the office when they are able to return to the office, they cannot remain at the company. End of story.

Basically, if you can show up in an office and you do not show up at the office, resignation accepted. End of story.

And its potential as a TikTok-meets-YouTube platform for video creators:

We’re not trying to put YouTube out of business, but I’m just saying, do we really need to give YouTube a whole bunch of free traffic? Maybe not. So at least give creators the option if they would like to put their video on Twitter and earn the same amount as they would, or maybe slightly more, on YouTube or TikTok or whatever the case may be.

Twitter’s first couple of weeks under Musk’s ownership have been nothing short of tumultuous. They started with Musk unceremoniously firing much of the C-suite and laying off roughly half of Twitter’s global workforce. He revamped Twitter Blue to automatically give paid subscribers a blue verification check mark, which quickly led to impersonation running rampant on the social network.

Executives continue to resign, including the head of trust and safety who Musk elevated after he took over. A lawyer at the company has told employees to seek whistleblower protection “if you feel uncomfortable about anything you’re being asked to do.” Meanwhile, Musk has tried to convince Twitter’s advertisers to return amid the chaos to no avail, even as the company’s user growth sees “all-time highs,” according to him.

Do you know more about what’s going on inside Twitter? If so, I’d love to chat confidentially. You can reach me via email: alex.heath@theverge.com or through the contact form on my Linktree. Then we can set up a secure thread on Signal.

Below is a transcript of Musk’s first all-hands meeting with Twitter employees, lightly edited for clarity:

Elon Musk: Hello. Nice to meet you all. I’m very excited to be here, and I think the long-term potential for Twitter is immense. I think you’ve heard, perhaps, some of the things that I’ve said publicly, and I think what you’ll find is that the things I say publicly are the same things that I say privately.

I think Twitter can perform an incredibly valuable service to the world and be the public town square where people exchange ideas and where, once in a while, they change their mind. And where you have a battleground of ideas that can hopefully take the place of the violence in a lot of cases. So people can just be talking instead of physically fighting. I think we could actually be a force for peace, which would be amazing. I think there’s a tremendous amount of good that Twitter can achieve for humanity. And that’s what we’re going to strive for.

So in order for us to achieve that good, how do we get a lot of people on the platform? There are 8 billion humans. If we don’t have at least a billion humans on the system, then we have a very small percentage of humans. So we want to have, you know, a reasonable percentage of humans. This is not for the sake of money or anything like that. It’s just in order to do a lot of good, we need a lot of people on the platform and a lot of people talking.

I think it would be really interesting to get more dialog between countries and to surface tweets that are interesting. We have an amazing market share in Japan. There are probably in any given day some super interesting tweets that are happening in Japan, but we never see them in the US or almost never see them. It would be, I think, very exciting to take tweets from different countries and different language groups and expose people from different countries and different language groups to ideas that are interesting, entertaining, funny — where you learn something from around the world. So I think we’ve got a great potential to connect people around the world and expose them to, like I said, ideas and content that’s going to entertain them. If we can take the most interesting, entertaining, funny stuff from around the world and show people that, it’s going to be great.

And we also want to expand to be sort of a multimedia platform. We are that to some degree. We are the strongest when it comes to anything that’s writing and real time. But we also want to have that for pictures and video and not in a way that copies what others do. I don’t think we should not copy something just because someone else did it. We just want to focus on how we make Twitter as compelling as possible, where it’s maximum enjoyment, maximum learning. Where you spend an hour on Twitter, and you don’t regret it. Sometimes, you know, on some of the social media platforms, you might spend an hour, but you, like, kind of regret that, right? Not naming names but, you know, it’s like you want to spend an hour and be like, “Wow, that was a great hour.”

I think there’s this transformative opportunity in payments. And payments really are just the exchange of information. From an information standpoint, not a huge difference between, say, just sending a direct message and sending a payment. They are basically the same thing. In principle, you can use a direct messaging stack for payments. And so that’s definitely a direction we’re going to go in, enabling people on Twitter to be able to send money anywhere in the world instantly and in real time. We just want to make it as useful as possible.

As a general principle, if we are solving the reasons that people click away from Twitter not to trap people on the site... You know, let’s say somebody is a content creator on YouTube. Provided they are able to post their video on Twitter and monetize the video at least to the same degree as on YouTube, then naturally, they would just post their video on Twitter as well. But right now, content creators cannot post the length of video that they would like to post, and they cannot monetize it, which means they cannot pay the bills. These are not like super complicated things. They’re pretty basic. We’re not trying to put YouTube out of business, but I’m just saying, do we really need to give YouTube a whole bunch of free traffic? Maybe not. So at least give creators the option if they would like to put their video on Twitter and earn the same amount as they would, or maybe slightly more, on YouTube or TikTok or whatever the case may be.

Anyway, I think the future is super exciting, and I look forward to making it happen with you guys.

Moderator: [Inaudible] ... and other kinds of challenges that we’re already facing, even with the user base at its current size.

Musk: So the question is how to make sure that the growth does not outpace the risk?

Moderator: Yeah.

Musk: Well, I’m obviously a big fan of getting people to be verified, leveraging the payment system and iOS and Android security. I think we want to have automated checks as well as manual checks. I’m open to ideas here. We will obviously care about real user growth, not anything that appears to be user growth that is not. We care about authentic users. And I think as long as we’re taking steps to authenticate real users and exiting ones that are not good, and that it is expensive and difficult to create bot armies, we will succeed.

The issue without payment verification, especially without having a phone and a card, is that you can do a million bot accounts a day and with the cost of a tenth of a penny. It’s not so much the $8 because, obviously, state actors have more than that. But can they put together a million phones and a million credit cards? That’s much harder. That’s where they’re going to stumble.

Inaudible question about reviving Vine.

I think it’s really just, do we have compelling shortform video as opposed to exactly what Vine was? It’s not “let's copy Vine from whichever year with ancient code.” It’s really just, how do we have compelling shortform video, just compelling content in general? I was actually flipping through the Twitter video where, once you go into kind of a full-screen video mode, you can just start flipping through videos. It’s actually not bad. I was like, “Okay, well, it’s pretty good.” I think building on that makes a ton of sense.

I told a whole bunch of people this morning that I was on it for like maybe 15 minutes, and I could have easily been on it for half an hour. The videos that it showed me were interesting. It was some good videos. And when I told a roomful of people that this morning, they didn’t know it existed. So I think if we try to surface it and make it more obvious that it exists, that would be a good move.

Inaudible exchange with an employee.

You know, I’ve got no problem with battle, obviously [laughs]. Yeah, just email it to me. I’m pretty responsive on email. Every now and again, it’s a crisis, and if I didn’t respond within 24 hours, email me again. It rarely takes me longer than 24 hours to respond. Usually it’s within hours. And I’m also for like, “Hey, let’s have some fun and let’s have some adventure here.” Let’s just try some crazy stuff. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll stop it. And if it does work, we’ll amplify it. But I think that’s really fun and exciting.

Just try weird stuff. It’s nothing ventured, nothing gained. If we’re too cautious, then how do we make revolutionary improvements? Revolutions are not done with caution. So we want to try things, ideally things that don’t break the whole system, but I think as long as we’re agile and we react quickly to improve things and correct mistakes, I think it’ll be fine.

Let’s just get a bunch of content creators that we think are cool on YouTube and say, “Hey, would you consider putting your content on Twitter, and we’ll pay you 10 percent more than YouTube and see how it goes?”

Inaudible question from an employee.

We need some video ads is what you’re saying. It’s hard to register video ads if we don’t have video ads. It’s a great question. How do we start the creator flywheel if we don’t have video ads to begin with? This is where subscriptions come in because YouTube also has subscriptions, and they don’t show ads in subscriptions. So I think this is a case where it does make sense to start spending some money and at least matching to slightly better than matching creators on YouTube and saying, for now, we’ll just pay them money that is reasonably competitive, maybe slightly better than YouTube for their content on Twitter as well. And I think as we build our subscriber base, because YouTube is doing the exact same thing, they’re building a subscriber base.

I actually try to use YouTube as a nonsubscriber to just kind of get a feel for what’s going on with advertising. Frankly, I find their advertising to be brutal. It seems to be one scam ad after another.

Inaudible interjection.

YouTube has 2.6 billion users? Oh man, we’re nothing!

Employee: Yes, and only 80 million subscribers.

Musk: [Laughter] That’s a lot. Look, my kids were basically educated by Reddit and YouTube, which, like, uh-oh. I think let’s just try it. Let’s just get a bunch of content creators that we think are cool on YouTube and say, “Hey, would you consider putting your content on Twitter, and we’ll pay you 10 percent more than YouTube and see how it goes?” Let’s do that. Okay, great. So you will do that?

Inaudible exchange.

Okay, collectively, you’ll do it. Great. Please do it. Let’s take action. I’m a big believer in having just a maniacal sense of urgency. So if you can do it after this meeting, I would do it after this meeting. Just a maniacal sense of urgency. Like, if you want to get stuff done, maniacal sense of urgency. Just go “aah!” Hardcore!

“Just go ‘aah!’ Hardcore!”

Employee: So on the subscriber part, it’s $8 right now, right?

Musk: Oh. Really? [Laughter]

Employee: I know your purpose is to get people verified. Are we open to micropayments and other things to get people verified?

Musk: It’s definitely just one step at a time. I intentionally limited things to only iOS, and just a small number of countries, to not have a massive amount of fraud that our systems... that we couldn’t handle. So the hardest thing to commit fraud on right now, relatively speaking, is if you require a phone and a credit or a debit card.

And so then we’re piggybacking over the payment system as well as Apple. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to scam. Obviously, it’s still possible, but it is very difficult to scam at scale. They can do individual accounts, but they can no longer do a million accounts.

With the web, you don’t want someone taking a million credit card numbers off the dark web and then spawning a million instances that appear to be individual users going a zillion proxies around the world. And then we’ve got a million fake accounts. That’s why web is going to be last, and we’ll do that with great caution. And there are just some bugs in the system, and people need to download the latest version of Twitter.

We’re still, I think, giving people a country error, which is kind of embarrassing. US users are getting a country error, which is incorrect. It actually should be “You have the wrong version of the Twitter app” error. So just like stuff like that. That’s why it’s been a relatively soft launch, and I have not tweeted from my main account, “Sign up for Twitter Blue.” It was very intentional.

Employee: I have a follow-up question. When we talked about followers, subscribers. I think Jack [Dorsey] had an interview about two or three years ago talking about how he regrets having the follow button. What’s in your vision about this, and do you think that’s something we will want to curate because we do want to promote creators?

Musk: I think “subscriber” or some other word would probably be a better word than “follow” because “follow” sounds more like, do you have a cult or something? And I'm like, I guess I kind of do have a bit of a cult, but like, not everyone wants to be a cult member, you know?

So it’s more like, I’m interested in what the person or entity has to say. So that’s why I’m following them. But I’m not really just their minion. I’m just interested in what they have to say, and I may agree or disagree with it. So I think “follow” is probably not the ideal term. And I hate “super follow” because it just sounds like a superfan, like I’m your No. 1 fan. It just sounds like, is this person going to stalk me and kill me? So “super follows,” I think we’re changing that term to “subscriber” or something. That’s a better term.

Employee: Do you want to reserve this graph of people together, like bulk subscribing to this person’s content?

Musk: I am very much open to ideas here. I wouldn’t say I’m stuck on anything. The following really just means that I think this person says interesting things, has interesting and maybe funny content. That’s why I want to see what they have to say. I'm not necessarily always agreeing with it or always thinking that the content is great. But this is how I want to spend time — listening, reading, hearing what this person has to say.

Employee: The reason why I’m asking is a lot of our technology is built toward that kind of graph, and that is where I think it’s a critical decision we have to make. I have one more: the home timeline. It’s very hard to gauge the intent of the user through just a general home timeline. And we have this search where there are events, neighborhoods, trends, and all these things going on in search. And through the years, we’re trying to curate these. Do you see us to be still on the home timeline kind of space — or you want to be more exploratory?

I work in the ads group, and intent is the hardest thing for us to get. So I just want to see how you imagine the Twitter app to be. Is it the home timeline, and we optimize there, or should we actually direct the user based on their intent or at least give guidance? Just want to get your thoughts on that.

I’d love to see ads for gizmos. If I saw ads for gizmos, I love gizmos, of course I’d buy them all in a click ... So then I have to send it to my assistant like, “Please buy this gizmo.”

Musk: Right now, the onramp to Twitter is too complicated, especially via the app. This is for sure a case where TikTok is much better. It’s like, buttery smooth to onramp to TikTok, to download the app. And they don’t make you create a username or anything like that unless you want to post video content. And the same should be true of Twitter. People download the app just and just ask very broadly what their interests are and then immediately put them into a tweet, show them, I guess, a home timeline that has some of the most interesting tweets. And it may not be things that they’ve exactly asked for, but they’re just really interesting. Sometimes people don’t know what to ask for it. We often don’t know that something is interesting or entertaining or funny, and I think we can do actually a much better job of that.

So very often, I’ll see some really interesting tweet that might have a quarter-million likes, but it was never shown to me in the timeline. And the reason I see it is because a friend of mine sends me the link. If we’ve got awesome tweets, we should show those to people. Like TikTok, if they have incredibly popular, interesting videos, they will show those to people.

And on the advertising front, I don’t think we should have a separate ad engine and tweet recommendation engine because we really want to actually show people ads that are as accurate as possible to their interests. An ad done really well that is what somebody would actually want to buy, especially if it’s when they want to buy, is actually content. In order for that to be content, you have to have a wide range of ads. Being asked to sign up for a mortgage when you have no interest in that whatsoever is annoying and spam.

I’d love to see ads for gizmos. If I saw ads for gizmos, I love gizmos, of course, I’d buy them all in a click. Even if they’re not that great, I’ll still buy gizmos. I love technology. I’ll see content for gizmos but not an ad or an ability to actually buy the gizmo. So then I have to send it to my assistant like, “Please buy this gizmo.” That’s how it goes generally. But I’d be happy to just click on it and buy it.

I think I very rapidly want to improve every aspect of Twitter. Search I know we can improve immediately and in a number of ways. I mean, just this morning, I actually was just looking for Jack [Dorsey] actually. And I typed Jack into the search engine, and “@jack” was not the No. 1 thing. But that should be the No. 1 thing. So then I just had to type “@jack” in directly. If you type j-a-c-k, your No. 1 thing should be Jack Dorsey. I mean, that’s probably what you’re looking for, you know? So I think anything we do to improve any aspect of the system, let’s do it right away.

Moderator: I received a number of questions over Slack, so I would like to try to summarize and relay. I think a big one that’s coming across is we have a lot of services and key contributors who either work from home or remote and was hoping you could share some more thinking behind how we should be handling it, where your head is at in terms of the critical contributors who are remote right now.

Musk: So with respect to remote, I mean, it’s a consistent policy that I have at Tesla and SpaceX, which is that we do need to be default in the office and for a reasonable amount of time. It’s not like some crazy number of hours. I’ll do crazy hours in office, but I’m not asking everyone else to do crazy hours in the office. But it’s just my philosophy that people are way more productive when they’re in person because the communication is much better.

If you’re sitting in the same room and you can interact with people, it’s just way better than if you’re not sitting in the same room. There’s a reason to have offices. Now, if somebody’s contribution is so significant that they can overcome the communication difficulties of being remote, then they should absolutely remain at Twitter. But it will be a higher bar. They have to be that much better to overcome the communication issues of being remote. There are plenty of people at Tesla and SpaceX that do work remotely, but it is on an exception basis for exceptional people. And I totally understand if that doesn’t work for some people. That’s the new philosophy at Twitter.

Those who go hardcore and play to win, Twitter is a good place. And those who are not, totally understand. But then Twitter is not for you.

Moderator: There is another question that I have been getting consistently that I was hoping you could share some thoughts on. What’s our plan on the attrition that we’re experiencing? And how are we going to really bring people together and get everyone focused on the big vision here?

Musk:  Well, I mean, I don’t know. I don’t have a great answer to that. But I can tell you, philosophically, what works at SpaceX and Tesla is people being in the office and being hardcore, and a small number of people can get a tremendous amount done in that situation. If you look at, say, the Tesla Autopilot AI team, it’s about 150 engineers, and they’re outperforming teams that they’re competing against that are 3,000 engineers. I’m a big believer that a small number of exceptional people can be highly motivated and can do better than a large number of people who are pretty good and moderately motivated. That’s my philosophy. And those who go hardcore and play to win, Twitter is a good place. And those who are not, totally understand. But then Twitter is not for you.

Employee: Can we talk about what engineering-driven culture means concretely?

Musk: I guess engineering-driven culture is really just are we advancing the core technology of the product. This is not engineering to the exclusion of everything else. Take Tesla, for example. We have an incredible design studio that I built from scratch with Franz von Holzhausen. We do have a project management organization, and then we’ve got a very large engineering organization. But product management, design, and engineering all report to me. It’s not just like everyone reports to engineering. Its design, project management, and engineering report to me, and they are of equal importance.

In order for Twitter to advance the core product, what is the core product made up of? It’s made of software. So unless we write great software, it’s difficult to make the product better. At Tesla and SpaceX, we would be going to build rockets and cars and Superchargers and satellites. That’s a lot of hardware, and there’s also very good software teams there. In fact, I regard Tesla at least as much as a software company as it is a hardware company. But in the case of Twitter, we’re not shipping hardware. We’re shipping software. So we have to be writing great code that advances the product. It’s very obvious.

Employee: Why is our leadership trying to increase attrition rate if we’re already understaffed and barely able to keep things running?

Musk: I’m not trying to increase attrition, but I think we are not understaffed. I think we are overstaffed. That is my opinion, which you’re welcome to disagree with.

Employee: I think a lot of people want to be participating in teams like that [Twitter Blue]. How can we spin up more of these types of projects, and then how can we do so sustainably? 

We are going to be paranoid, and we’re going to survive.

Musk: I think we need to spool up subscriptions. The reason I have extremely high urgency around subscriptions is that we are headed into, I think, quite a serious recession. And you can see that with basically every company doing layoffs. It’s not just Twitter. And in a recession, advertising is disproportionately affected. And then advertising where the advertiser cannot clearly trace how much they spent on an ad to what demand it generated, which is known as brand advertising, will be even more affected. This puts Twitter as we look ahead into a very dire situation from a revenue standpoint.

You may have read that I sold a bunch of Tesla stock. The reason I did that was to save Twitter. Not because I lack faith in Tesla. I think Tesla stock is going to be worth an immense amount in the future. I sold the stock for Twitter. To keep Twitter alive. And the reason that we are going hardcore with subscribers is to keep Twitter alive. There’s going to be probably a year or two of serious recession that, again, will disproportionately affect us. And we’re going to get through that and not be dead. That’s the reason for the priority there.

I’ve been through the recession of 2000 and 2001 and 2008–9, and I’m somewhat paranoid about dying in recessions. I have recession PTSD from keeping X and PayPal alive through the 2000 recession, keeping Tesla alive in the 2009 recession. It’s worth remembering that, in 2009, General Motors and Chrysler both went bankrupt. Tesla did not, despite being a startup electric vehicle company. It was excruciatingly difficult to keep us alive in 2009. And the reason we were able to keep alive is partly by just being paranoid. It’s like Andy Gross’ famous statement: “Only the paranoid survive.” Well then, we are going to be paranoid, and we’re going to survive.

Moderator:  I have another question from remote folks: What is our runway?

Musk: It’s difficult to say what our runway, our cash runway, is because I don’t know what the revenue shortfall will be next year. But I think it is possible that we could see a net negative cash flow of several billion dollars. It’s impossible to predict the actual severity of a recession or the length of it. But we do not want to have a situation where we’re betting on the recession being shallow and short if, in fact, it ends up being a deep recession that is long. We need to make sure we can survive a deep recession that is long.

Basically, if you can show up in an office and you do not show up at the office, resignation accepted. End of story.

Moderator reads question about reporting structure.

I haven’t had time to dig into the design side on Twitter, but I would say that, over time, it would be more like design, program management, and engineering would report directly to me and balance of the product across those three organizations, just like Tesla. Anyone who has great design and is artistically excellent, I would recommend that they stay and that this will be a happy home for them.

Employee: Hey, I was wondering back to the return office question. So much of the company is distributed right now. Are you asking us to return to the office just to get on calls with the other offices? We’re not going to lose access to teammates in-person anyways. Why are you asking this?

Musk: Let me be crystal clear. If people do not return to the office when they are able to return to the office, they cannot remain at the company. End of story.

Employee: That’s not my question. Even if people return to the office, the offices are separate offices. We won’t be in person anyways.

Musk: Yes, but you can still maximize the amount of in-person activity. Tesla is not one place either. Basically, if you can show up in an office and you do not show up at the office, resignation accepted. End of story.

Employee: I work on growth and notifications. We’ve been having a lot of adventure in the last two weeks. We’ve shipped a lot of different things. I want to understand, over the next three months, what is the best thing for us to do? Should we continue trying a lot of different things and see where we grow? Or do we have a particular focus, or we want to focus on one or two things? Specifically, are we trying to get the next billion users? Or are we trying to focus more on revenue? I’d love to understand if there’s a particular focus.

Musk: We just definitely need to bring in more cash than we spend. If we don’t do that and there’s a massive negative cash flow, then bankruptcy is not out of the question. That is a priority. We can’t scale to 1 billion users and take massive losses along the way. That’s not feasible. I don’t think we will. As we make the product more compelling, if we fix and improve search, that would be massive. Add video content where creators are compensated, and it draws people to be subscribers to Twitter, then I think we will see that these things are not misaligned. They are aligned. If you have a compelling product, people will buy it. That has been my experience at SpaceX and Tesla.

Employee: And sorry, just to be a little bit more specific, is your recommendation that all of us in different teams, we try different things in the next few months to see what works, what doesn’t, or do you have a specific recommendation of what our focus should be?

Musk: I think just sort of proposing those things to me, I think, would be the right thing to do. But, you know, like I said, I think there’s a lot that is very, very obvious that we need to do. Like video content and compensating content creators in order to get content on Twitter and not have them be forced to put content elsewhere or not pay the bills, which is currently the situation. That’s a no-brainer. High priority. Improving search: high priority. We are obviously going to add payments capability to Twitter. That’s also a high priority. And if there is something you think we should do that I’m not aware of, just tell me about it, and I’m open to doing it.

Employee: I’ll take the opportunity to talk about notifications. We’ve heard a lot about how notifications can be chaotic, especially for heavy users, but at the same time, it drives 20 percent of our growth. I’m curious to hear where you see notifications for Twitter going.

Musk: I think we should be careful with notifications. Like what would you want to do if you didn’t work here would be a good test. If you’re just a Twitter user and you didn’t work at Twitter, what would you want Twitter to do? So you wouldn’t want to do things that are annoying just to drive like user minutes or something like that. But you would want Twitter to alert you to something that is interesting. So I think just generally saying what would you want Twitter to do if you weren’t at Twitter is a good way to think about whether it’s the right thing or not.

Employee: We are embarking on a payments journey almost from scratch here. When you look back and think, what do you think we should do differently from what you had originally planned for PayPal? Or what are some of the mistakes that we should avoid or some of the things that we should try?

And if you address all things that you want from a finance standpoint, then we will be the people’s financial institution.

Musk: The full answer to the payment story is complicated. PayPal, as it’s known today, is a subset of a feature roadmap that we wrote in July of 2000. Roughly speaking, you want to basically populate a balance for every verified Twitter user. Give them some amount of money, like 10 bucks or something, that they can send anywhere in the system. We need money transfer licenses for that, which we’ve applied for.

Then, in order to get money out of the system in parallel, we establish a high-yield money market account so that having a Twitter balance is the highest-yield thing that you can do. So that if somebody has a checking account, a savings account, or some bank CDs and a money market account, and a credit card situation... This is very complex and expensive. If you can simply have one balance on Twitter that can simply go positive or a negative, and when it goes positive, the interest rate is better than what you could receive elsewhere, and when it goes negative, the interest rate is lower than what you see elsewhere, now you have a much simpler system.

Then you attach a debit card to the Twitter account so that you have backward compatibility into the payments system because not everyone will accept Twitter. So if have above a certain balance, you automatically send people a debit card. You want backward compatibility to the existing financial infrastructure.

In the US, there’s still a small number of checks that are used. So if your landlord is demanding that you send a check, you have to have some non-zero number of checks. Then we would send a small number of checks to those that need to have checks. Then you add automatic payment. Then over time, you basically address what are all the things that you’d want from a finance standpoint. And if you address all things that you want from a finance standpoint, then we will be the people’s financial institution.

Employee: It sounds like more of a bank. Do you also foresee us loaning? 

Musk: Well, if you want to provide a comprehensive service to people, then you can’t be missing key elements.

Moderator: We have a question from the privacy and infosec teams. It’s very clear to us that accelerating product launches and experimentation is going to be important to dig ourselves out of this economic situation. At the same time, we have some pretty significant privacy and infosec obligations that we have to meet. How do you foresee this factoring into the equation in terms of being able to be equally focused on security and privacy?

Musk: First of all, I’m not not familiar with security and privacy. I’m actually very familiar with it. If you think about Tesla, all the cars are connected globally. We know where people went. In fact, we intentionally do not store the last half mile or so of where people went. We go to great lengths at Tesla because, you think about it, a Tesla has surround cameras going. There are immense privacy issues with having an always-connected car with cameras. We’ve gone to great lengths at Tesla to protect people's privacy. And the same is true of Starlink. You can see what websites they visit. You know where they are with precision.

And so if Starlink or SpaceX was not very good at privacy, the whole system would collapse, and people would lose faith in it. And same is true of Tesla. So this is not some new thing for me. I’ve been dealing with privacy issues for a very long time. Same is true of PayPal. This is not my first rodeo on the privacy front. Like my sixth rodeo. All right, we’ll take a couple more questions.

Moderator: What are you thinking in terms of top-line metrics? So as we think about trying to prioritize our work across the company, what are the key one or two metrics?

Musk: I think we don’t want to get overly focused on metrics. It’s helpful to see these metrics as sanity checks. But if you’re over-optimized on a metric, then you end up being just like a foolish AI. You pursue a number without common sense. What actually matters is: are we making the product amazing? If you make the product amazing, people will use it.

At Tesla, we do no market surveys, no market testing. We just make cars that we love and that we are convinced people will love. That’s it. And Tesla outsells everyone. Tesla outsells all the people that are focused on the metrics, all the people that do the market surveys, outsells all of them. Because we focus on making the product amazing, and that’s what matters. Okay, last question.

Employee: With regard to our infrastructure costs and migration to cloud, what’s our goal? Do we want to be in cloud? Do we want to be our own DC? Mix of two?

Musk: We’re not trying to migrate to cloud or not migrate to cloud. I think that is neither here nor there. We need to make folks make the product great, and it is neither here nor there.

Employee: How can we improve the conversion rate by making the platform more e-commerce friendly?

Musk: You mean by enabling people to buy things?

Employee: Yeah.

Musk: Well, that goes hand in hand with payments. If you have a balance on Twitter or you have basically money in your Twitter account, then it’s actually very easy to buy things. So that’s a natural outgrowth of having an effective payment system, is making it easy to buy stuff.

I think there’s tremendous untapped opportunity at Twitter. Thank you.

Update November 15th 3:45PM PT: Removed reference to Twitter’s head of ad sales resigning since that person, Robin Wheeler, was convinced by Musk to stay shortly after she resigned.