5 Reasons Why Twitter Might Soon Be Dispensable

I love Twitter. I use it heavily. Very heavily!

However, given how networking technology is moving forward, I have to wonder if Twitter is going to reach an early expiration date.

Here’s why I’m thinking this way:

1. Twitter’s main function is a commodity. Exchanging text messages is not rocket science. The younger generation does it all the time, but with smartphones and (generally) not with Twitter. And messages (including multimedia files) can be shared more intuitively on other platforms. Facebook replicates real-life sharing much more normally than Twitter, which requires a learning curve, a critical mass of contacts, and an awkward method of composing messages (140 characters).

2. Twitter still doesn’t have a stable and scalable business model. For all of its potential, Twitter is not truly a business tool with a clear value proposition. It’s a communication tool looking for a business model. That’s called “vulnerable” in any language. Also, while Twitter has had a high share level of cultural noise, its true adoption rate and demographic penetration are still quite small.

3. People are reaching platform overload. Even the tech-savvy have a hard time keeping up networks and profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, now Google+, and a myriad of other sites. As these other platforms become more diversified (Facebook’s new Skype-calling integration, Google+’s Circles and Hangouts), Twitter is going to increasingly seem…well, quaint. Training wheels. Expendable.

4. The real network is the people, not the platform. I’ve met a ton of great people on Twitter and continue to do so. It’s been a great tool for a few years. However, those people are also now quite findable elsewhere. We’re going to increasingly build our networks around specific people and purposes, not platforms. Will we absolutely NEED Twitter in future years? Perhaps not.

5. Twitter is basically dumb. Yes, I said it. Lots of our early tools are quite limited. Read my initial thoughts on Google+ to get my drift.

Many have predicted the demise of Twitter in the past. I’m just looking at certain big-picture trends and wondering: is Twitter like a tricycle? Great for getting us going, but now we’re moving on to more adult modes of communication? Is Twitter (as a stand-alone platform) moving toward expend-ability?

What do you think? Am I seeing clearly, or being myopic? Put your thoughts in the comments!

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

40 Responses to 5 Reasons Why Twitter Might Soon Be Dispensable

  1. You beat me to the punch. But we’ve talked and blogged a lot about the problems with Twitter. If Google can get the formula right, and keep the servers up, they are much more likely to connect the dots between communication tool and revenue.

    Great post Steve. I look forward to other’s comments.

    @jmacofearth
    uber.la

    • John, I think you and I both realize that Google is in a far better position (revenue and talent and existing tools) to create holistic platforms. And they’re willing to pay the price (Wave, Buzz, now Plus) to make it happen!

  2. Okay, so I have to say…I got defensive at first (I LOVE twitter!!!) but you made some seriously valid points. People is the key for me, definitely, and if the same availability to those people were made through a different service, then I wouldn’t really need it. In addition, yes, twitter IS stupid (for most people) but it can also be brilliant. I have seen some of the smartest thoughts in 140 characters…it blows my mind. As for platform overload…100%! I sometimes dream about social media just all disappearing ;) But then, well, I would be out of a job! Great points Steve!

    • Kirsten, I have always felt that Twitter is wonderful – as an evolutionary step. But for what it does as a stand-alone service, I think we’ll outgrow it. Which is how it should be, actually.

  3. Greg Hartle says:

    While I’m apt to agree with you, there are a few things Twitter has going for it that the others don’t.

    1. It’s working hard to integrate it’s platform into government agencies. Especially outside of the U.S. This brings with it tremendous leverage for further integration and other uses outside person-to-person communication.

    2. Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Jobs seem to be in bed together which no other platform has going for it. Don’t be surprised at a future joint-venture between Apple and Twitter.

    3. So far, all other social platforms have a barrier to entry. While a barrier has it’s benefits, the restriction is a hindrance for many like myself. I prefer to follow and unfollow at my leisure knowing I’m feeding my mind what I want when I want and not necessarily focused on deep relationships.

    4. Many, like me, will always be drawn to the simplicity of Twitter. I don’t want bells and whistles. I don’t want more options. I want easy, simple, and relevant.

    The big challenge, of course, is the revenue question. I bet it comes from a source completely outside of our current awareness (not ads). I guess we’ll see…

    Great post, Steve!

    • Greg, the Apple angle you brought up is a very interesting one. While I question Twitter’s long-term relevance as a stand-alone platform, a deep alliance with Apple that brings its strengths into a more diverse ecosystem (OK, enough tech language here!) could get it to a new level.

    • Well said Greg. Interesting point about Apple. Seems like the folks at Twitter have got to have some kind of secret plan. Hard tell.

  4. Dave Cole says:

    I think the giant Twitter x-factor is Apple. Apple will affect Twitter way more than Twitter will affect Apple. I expect to see a massive reinvention happening once iOS 5 debuts.

      • Rick Noel says:

        With Google and Twitter parting ways puts near-term end to Google Real Time Search, Maybe Google is working on an in-house replacement for real-time search for all platforms? For now, Twitter is very useful for real time search and is unique in its breadth. Have seen some interesting effects in SEO from tweets by influential twitter users with at least short-term positive impacts on index speed and ranking. If the Twitter parting way with Google means negative SEO impacts in Google search impact, this will severely diminish Twitter value, adoption and use IMHO.

  5. Having an array of personally selected feeds at once via Tweetdeck has great convenience for me personally, and I can see it being very handy for quite some time to come, regardless of what else becomes available.

    • Mary, I have the same – put a ton of time and effort into trying to make Twitter manageable. And that’s just the point. It takes a pretty savvy tech commitment to make Twitter work well. Which is exactly what we don’t need. The long-term winner will have intuitive and simple written all over it.

  6. Good post, Steve. Yes, Twitter is (as it stands today) the tricycle of social media. But even if Facebook/Skype and Google+ (or others) evolve into grander platforms (let’s call them mountain bikes), my 2 yr old still rides a three-wheeler (as do many aging Harley fans).

    Will Twitter lose its “shiny new toy” status? I think it already has. But it fills a basic need, and while Apple may put a new shine on Twitter, that need will still exist, it just may not be called Twitter.

    As always, thx for making me think.

    Fred

    • Fred, we’ll always need simple and quick ways to broadcast and exchange messages. Like you, I just ain’t sure the long-term solution will have the name Twitter!

  7. Correct Greg Hartle -
    though….everyone needs to stop trying to connect positive user experiences with objectively, the largest social monetary failure of note.

  8. Ian Gotts says:

    Your points are well made. Will Twitter find a viable business model before it becomes out dated and over taken. Your comments echo my thoughts – No.

    This image seems to sum up the escalating problem with Social Networks

    http://jatig.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/021283-too-many-messages.png

    • One graphic better than a thousand words! Nicely done, Ian.

    • Chris Reimer says:

      I don’t see “viable business model” and “becoming outdated” as being that connected.

      They could finally find that viable monetizable business model, and the service could still become outdated as people leave in droves for Google+ or Flopper (Twitter’s future evil nemesis.) Or, they may continue to raise private funds instead of finding a way to produce profits, and the service could excel, survive, and further insert itself into our daily lives.

      I don’t think they need a business model to stave off obsolescence. They need to make Twitter BETTER to fight off the Google+’s of the world. Fight the spam, no more failwhales, take away these new hourly usage limits, and continue to innovate.

  9. I also believe that Apple is a radical in the equation. I didn’t see the keynote, so I’m curious what the Twitter/Apple alliance has in store.

    One other thing, and this is a big one, that Google+ will be a long time in catching up on: the tools.

    Without Tweetdeck, Google+ is like Twitter.com. And all the stats and research tools for Twitter are simply amazing. So install base will help (glad to see they let some more people in last night) but APPS its about the APPS.

    • Google has a lot of smart people to design such things. They’d be fools not to quickly expand the ecosystem (as long as simplicity is maintained, even enhanced)

      • And of course I’d like nothing better than to have my iGoogle page become my epicenter of all things social. They will consolidate, as they already are, but is Google+ a big enough platform to contain it?

        I was musing on another Google+ post, that perhaps Google can start building CHROME hooks in that are only available on CHROME. Perhaps the browser will be the next killer app.

  10. Maybe this is an opinion more or less but I think twitter as a tool using the KISS model. It is doing one thing and trying to do it well. The idea is simple, take your 140 characters and see what you can make of it. Facebook and Google are trying to fill a larger base and do more by integrating many of the features twitter relies on other modules that hook into it to try and do well. I think the best buisness model for twitter I suppose is to create or fund some of these separate modules and promote a boiler plate configuration people can use.

    • John, I do respect the KISS approach – although I would maintain that Twitter is not so simple for newbies, non-techies, and business. And that’s where big growth will be.

      • It’s funny that Twitter may have a simple design and limited feature set but it’s not intuitive and therefore I’m not sure I would call it training wheels for social. To get real value out of it takes training and tools. It may be simple but it’s not easy.

  11. Dennis Urbaniak says:

    Steve,

    Great post today which is not really a knock on twitter but a well constructed view on what is really important that twitter has been the best at delivering so far. I especially like point four on the people aspect. Throughout the history of networking, even back when some of the best oppportunities were through local “leads” club breakfast meetings, the individuals you meet and stay connected with over time add the greatest value. Then the tools will need to evolve as people get more sophisticated in their connections. Finally, I also believe that we will always need multiple platforms because of individual preference. What I feel is most important is that if you contribute to a network or community, you will gain benefits from this contribution which creates this ongoing postive cycle. Once again, in this post you have nicely demonstrated that being a “connection agent” is the key, not necessarily the tools that allow for those connections.

    Dennis

    • Dennis – exactly right. A lot of our sparkly platform tech over the past few years (video calling, micro-blogging, picture-sharing, location) is all rushing toward commoditization. What I really care about is: How can I most simply and effectively – and efficiently – communicate with people, and manage the process? I think Twitter’s approach is a piece, but only a piece.

  12. Tom Martin says:

    Steve,

    Valid points. Just like Flip built the easy video recording/uploading/sharing market — they lost it due to lack of innovation. Twitter and Facebook to a lesser degree are following a similar path… Facebook’s announcement yesterday was a big yawn. Nothing really new or that couldn’t be done with existing technology — the only thing they did was connect the offerings to a single platform (Facebook).

    All in all, everyone seems to want to be AOL again… have a big velvet rope garden that lemmings (consumers) stay in like trained sheep. Doubt it will really work. Innovation on the net is just too easy these days. Take a few smart, committed coders, toss in some Red Bull and give them 30 days — miracles come out.

    As for G+, it’s been an interesting platform… still early but from the beginning Google seems to be developing with a very analytical mindset… they’re learning from what came before them and taking the best features of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and putting them all in one place. Is it perfect… no. But many folks are thinking it is closer to that AOL wannabe than the other players.

    Twitter has always been slow to innovate — but given the latest moves of buying up TweetDeck and such, maybe a signal to the marketplace that they are ready to significantly upgrade the user experience and value proposition. We’ll see…. but if they don’t… then I’d tend to agree with you — they could quickly become the next Plurk.
    @TomMartin

  13. Agree with everything and everyone — for a change. Just want to note that just about every new bike rider needs to start with a tricycle before graduating for a two-wheeler. While Twitter, which I love, may feel simplistic to long-time/heavy users, it may still serve an important function as Baby’s First (or Second) Social Media. LinkedIn was my first and I now rarely use it.

  14. Great post Steve and some great insights but some esteemed colleagues here.

    I have always thought of Twitter as an app for a better Social platform or greater application. Its essentially a function with limited scale. One of its bigger failures in my mind is how it is incapable of handling groups and is limited to open hashtags with no control over the channel.

    To me, i beleive Twitter will be acquired sooner rather than later. Its value is its abnormally large “bubble” of subscribers. A bubble that will diminish rapidly as other better platforms replace Twitter functionality. The lead contender? Google. Consider the following… Skype gets scooped by MS and Facebook MS introduce Skype video chat and then you have 6 very large companies dramatically outbid Google for Nortel’s patents as Google looks to enter the mobile technology space in a serious way.

    What all of this could point to is that Google will be looking very seriously to acquire a social empire rather than risk of building one on its own. While Google + has some solid potential, imagine the addition of Twitter to the mix in the Google empire. In my mind, they are ripe for the picking and Twitter is in serious danger of being left behind.

    Thanks for provoking some good thinking and discussion.

    Jeff – Sensei

    • Google could buy Twitter, though I wonder how well they can digest and integrate one more platform. I also think they’re probably not in need of the tech – maybe it would be a defensive move more than anything else…

  15. Taariq Lewis says:

    Hello Steve:

    I think you’ve hit a great point. If the tools don’t keep up with the people, the people will move beyond and get better tools. I think Twitter’s trying to be the Social Media television, radio-show, blog, group chat, and connector-tool for everyone. It’s an ambitious goal, but if you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up being nothing to no one.

    Google+ also looks like it may head in this direction as Circles become the de facto means to communicate on G+ and filter out the noise of animated GIFS and silly videos. Why should I talk to anyone outside my Circle anyway?

    As the velocity of information continues to increase, I expect we’ll see more fragmentation of platforms. However, platforms that bring folks together from all communities to bond and still stay allow them to Go Back Home to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc, will be the new Social Media Black.

    Not everyone will leave Twitter. Not everyone will join Google+. However, everyone wants to chat with their peeps.

    Cheers,
    Taariq
    Stanzr

  16. I do not think Twitter is over just yet. It might be waning for the early adopters and insiders as everyone moves on to the next shiny thing, but many “mainstreamers” are only beginning to venture to use the tool. I believe the use of the platform will continue to evolve but for now it definitely still has a place.

    • No question it has a place right now, Karen. I’m still using it heavily. Looking down the road, however….I really wonder if it has the Klout to compete (sorry, bad pun – I lose 3 K for that!)

  17. Steve, Great post. Those that have taken my classes or heard me speak know that I call Twitter, “The most powerful social tool for business”. They would probably be surprised to hear that I completely agree with you. The features that have made Twitter unique for business are quick to read posts, foolishness is easy to ignore, realtime keyword search, no account needed to view posts, and no permission needed to follow someone. As other social networks adopt these traits (LinkedIn has adopted many of these traits to date) Twitter will become less and less relevant. LinkedIn has real opportunity to quietly dominate if they play their cards right. I think you’re right on here.

    • You know where LinkedIn could really make a huge impact? Becoming the go-to source for contact management across all social platforms. It’s a crying need, and they actually have the best core system in place for that. If LI created a Contaxio-like extension with an API, and we could sync our social platforms from one central ID source – that would be huge.

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