Musk Says That X Will Soon Remove the Like, Re-Post and Reply Buttons In-Stream

Elon Musk is looking to make his next big change at the platform formerly known as Twitter, with Musk reiterating his plan to remove the reply, like and re-share buttons from X posts in-feed, leaving only the total view count and time posted.

X view counts

As you can see in these examples, on the left is the current post layout on X, with the engagement buttons along the bottom of the post. Soon, according to Musk, X will switch to the post format on the right, with no action buttons in-stream, and only the view count and post time displayed at the top right.

Musk says that this will make the feed “very clean”, while X will also implement new action controls to respond to posts:

  • Swipe right to reply
  • Swipe left to Like
  • Tap and hold for all other actions

Musk says that all of the regular post metrics will still be viewable if a user taps into an individual post. But in-feed, you’ll only see the right example.

Which will undoubtedly impact X’s engagement metrics, and we know this, because it’s already happened during past Twitter experiments.

Back in 2020, in the lead-up to the U.S. election, Twitter actually removed the option to retweet a post entirely for U.S. users, referring people to quote tweet instead, as part of a broader effort to combat the amplification of false reports. Which worked, with Twitter later reporting that it helped to reduce the spread of false claims, though it also caused a 20% reduction in tweet sharing overall.

Based on this, it may make actually sense for X to remove the retweet button, or hide it behind an extra click, in order to slow the amplification of misleading reports. But it will also reduce X’s usage metrics, which could impact overall platform sentiment.

Maybe Elon Musk doesn’t care about that, and maybe, the actual outcome will be better in the end. But either way, it will have an impact,

For context, back in October, X reported that, of the 500 million posts that the app facilitates every day, 300 million of them are quotes and reposts.

The majority of X engagement comes via interaction with other posts, quotes and re-posts, and removing these as up front options on posts is going to reduce that engagement.

And if people like posts less often as a result, that’ll also mean that X has less interaction data to go on, in order to personalize feeds, while any reduction in replies will also impact creators in X’s ad revenue sharing program.

I would guess that all of these metrics are going to take a hit as a result of them being less visible, while not being able to see a reply count in-stream will also decrease the likelihood that users will tap through to find out what people are saying.

So really, it’ll likely be a two-pronged impact: For one, it is going to reduce engagement in the app, but at the same time, maybe that’s a good thing, in terms of overall engagement health.

But it’s X that will have to sell that to those who’ll question why its usage stats are declining.

Really, like most of Musk’s changes, it seems like an unnecessary step, but then again, Twitter never really made money, and things need to change in order to re-align the platform in a different direction.

I’m not sure that this change will be for the better, but it’s all part of Elon’s grander vision for the app, which will eventually see it become his “everything app” that caters for all kinds of use cases and functions.

But right now at least, growth on X is not going well.

Despite Elon and X CEO Linda Yaccarino making various claims about “record usage”, X also hasn’t added any new users in over a year. It is possible that those remaining in the app are spending more time there, and X still remains the best option for real time discussion in most niches. But I wouldn’t say that the platform is improving, and as these numbers stagnate, X is unlikely to lure back its key ad partners.

If X engagement also declines, that’s another not-so-positive signal, no matter how X tries to frame it.

And with X ad revenue still down by 50% since Musk took over, the platform is still not making money, even with drastic staff cuts.

At some stage, that will become a more significant concern, because even with Elon being among the richest people in the world, there will be questions as to how long you keep pouring money into a venture that offers no return.

In this context, changing X post engagement buttons is another risky move. But it’s also totally in line with Musk’s Icarian management approach.  

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