Sunday, September 16, 2012

The End of Twitter? (UPDATED)

I use Twitter. I have two accounts. I still rely primarily on my blogs for publication and communication, but Twitter sees some pretty significant activity. And this is, of course, why I'm a bit concerned with the way that Twitter is evolving.

Most of the people to which I've talked think that Twitter is making a pretty huge mistake. I tend to agree. They are taking away value from users instead of figuring out how to earn money with their current value set. That's never the way to grow a business. Truly, it may be the way to actually earn money, but that money will come at the expense of growth and customer engagement. That's why real business savvy is difficult. The perfect businessperson could make money while giving everything away for free.

In olden times, this wouldn't necessarily be a problem. A company could make a mistake, correct it, and move on. But in the tech world, as we have seen, the speed with which a company can fail is blinding. Myspace fell off the map in less than a year. A year! Even being in hardware provides no protection, with Nokia going from the #1 cell phone juggernaut to losing money and on life support in less than two years.

I think that companies can make small mistakes. Importantly, as long as value grows, even a major mistake can be forgiven. But with online-only companies, a major slipup can trigger the landslide of users to something else. Not necessarily a traditional "competitor," but perhaps something different. Did Blogger and Wordpress see Twitter as a competitor? Likely not, but they both took huge hits to their active user bases because of it.

What will rise to challenge Twitter? Who knows. All I know is that something is coming, and if Twitter acts like this, they weaken themselves such that they will fall and fall quickly when it happens. This isn't a doomsday scenario, but the world of Internet software has lit a fire under the ass of every company operating within the industry because the speed with which they can fail has accelerated so much. Every company must remain humble, and this behavior on Twitter's part indicates that they are not doing that.

UPDATE: I just now thought of the best example of this threat: Digg. Digg went from being a golden boy to dead in two years. And now, Digg, under new ownership, is trying to become a "startup" again. The problem is that once you're not new, you're not new. That most recent drop that you see on the chart down there was the release of this new version.

I think that this happened to Digg but not to Facebook during its frequent clashes with users because, firstly, Facebook really only had a single competitor, Myspace. Myspace was failing far worse than Facebook ever did. Digg had an immediate and direct competitor in the form of Reddit. Secondly, Facebook only ever added features. Sometimes, users thought the features overreached or were useless, but it was still an addition. Facebook was adding value. Digg took a bunch of stuff away. What's Twitter doing?

Twitter's 'revolution': becoming an old media company (Via The Verge)

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