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Twitter: Still Not the Stream of the Mainstream

January 27, 2010

Twitter is still not the stream for the mainstream. As much as I personally love the service, and everyday lament the fact more of my friends and family aren’t on it, I wonder if this will ever change. Yesterday’s report on Twitter’s inactive user base only reinforced my long-held belief that Twitter will never turn a corner with mainstream users outside the tech, media and celebrity community.

Sharon Gaudin’s write-up in Computerworld summed up some of Twitter’s fundmental engagement problems:

The number of Twitter users has climbed to a lofty 75 million, but the growth rate of new users is slowing and a lot of current Twitterers are inactive, according to a study released today.

…the study shows that a lot of Twitter accounts aren’t active, and the number of accounts that sent even one tweet in a given month hit an all-time low in December.

According to the findings, only 17% of all Twitter accounts Twittered last month. That’s down from more than 70% in early 2007 when Twitter was a fledgling company with far, far fewer users.

Early on, I thought Twitter would be like any other technological innovation: People who are more tech-inclined and early adopter in nature will embrace the technology first, and then it becomes more broadly accepted later after certain modifications occur.

But I think Twitter has passed that inflection point by now.

And if it is broadly accepted as a technology, it’s in the form of modifications made to Facebook, not Twitter itself. I also think enterprise microblogging will be more broadly applicable to the masses than Twitter ever will as a technology.

There could be myriad reasons why Twitter can’t capture people’s attention outside what’s becoming a very specific audience. One could be its structure: The Facebook stream allows you to view pictures, videos and other bits of dynamic content without having to click on a link to redirect you elsewhere. Twitter, by contrast, is all about links and redirection, which takes more time than many (and the numbers seem to support this) are willing to give.

Twitter is morphing into a social bookmarking service. While there are still some incredible tweets that I read everyday absent of links, that’s starting to happen less and less.

It’s a shame. I wish more people I interacted with in my daily life (especially outside work) were on Twitter. But I’m becoming more and more skeptical if that’ll ever happen.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Duncan W. Jones permalink
    January 27, 2010 10:06 pm

    Well done for daring to write this heresy. Lets face it, Twitter is just over-abbreviated email with a poor UI and no spam filter. It’ll wither and die when the novelty wears off and someone invents something newer and better.

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