Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, appears to have slowed down links to websites and platforms with which Musk has publicly feuded. After publications started covering the issue, X reportedly removed the delays.
The delays were first spotted on Hacker News, and later, the story was picked up by the Washington Post. The Hacker News post highlighted how links to the New York Times and Meta’s Twitter clone Threads had a roughly five-second delay before loading. The delay seemed connected to X’s ‘t.co’ link shortener. The Times delay has been ongoing since August 4th, though it’s not clear how long other sites had delays.
According to further analysis from the Washington Post, X also had delays on links to Reuters, Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky, and Substack. Meanwhile, the Post found that there were no delays on links to its own site. Moreover, links to Mastodon, YouTube, and Fox News loaded quickly.
Given that links were delayed to competing platforms and sites that Musk has publicly criticized, it seems likely that the move was intentional. Moreover, “free speech absolutist” Musk has lashed out at other platforms like this before. For example, X previously banned people for sharing links to their profiles on competing networks like Mastodon. When Substack launched its Twitter-like Notes feature, X disabled likes, replies, and retweets on posts with Substack links.
As spotted by The Verge, X’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, commented on the delays on Blusky, writing that it “is one of those things that seems too crazy to be true, even for Twitter.” Roth went on to point out that “UX research on web performance suggests that even a 1 second delay is enough for people to start to context switch, which increases bounce rates and decreases time spent on the linked site.” In other words, while five seconds may not sound like much, it could be enough to mess with traffic from X to one of the delayed sites.