Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twitter is Doomed

Twitter is doomed.

You have to admit. As far as opening statements go, that one is pretty provocative. Granted, it's an overstatement for dramatic effect. To be fair, it should only read “Twitter may be doomed.”

Social networks are different from other forms of Internet-based communication or content. Most media rely on the entire Internet not one service. Email down? Use a different account. It's exactly the same. Same for IM. As long as everyone has access it doesn't matter which you use. Web content in general is usually available in more than one place. If Hulu is ill today, you can still watch your shows on MSNBC out of commission? Try, or any of thousands of news outlets. And so on. There is a lot of redundancy in content and service and one is as good as another.

With social networks, the value is in the network. Not what it does but who it does. Facebook matters because of your Facebook Friends. If Facebook is down, then you can't update your network. You don't care if you update the world. It's the Facebook crowd that matters. Twitter is like this too.

Which brings us to why it is likely doomed. It's down all the time. As in several times a week. Stuff you want to Tweet (as posting to Twitter is called) is meant to go to your Twitter followers and they are waiting for it. There is no alternative since each social network is different. If all the networks was the same, folks would choose only one since you'd see the same content all the time. Even if you post the same thing on different social networks you are addressing different networks of people. Sure there is overlap but not complete and total. Everything else is interchangeable on the Internet since the Internet has 100% overlap. You can always find a substitute. With social networks it is unlikely that you will achieve anywhere that amount of overlap.

The final nail in the coffin comes about because, at some point in time, Twitter has to make money. If enough people get annoyed at the constant outages the value of Twitter over other social media will diminish to the point that the critical mass they need to attract advertisers will evaporate. No money means no Twitter. Twitter is (maybe) doomed.

In fact, the first to go will be the corporate types most likely to want to tie ads to their tweets. Once it reverts back to a handful of teenagers talking about what they had for lunch, no one (not even people who make lunch meat for teenagers) will be there to advertise.

The microblog format is clearly something people want. It just doesn't have to be Twitter. It could just as easily be Facebook, Google, or Microsoft. Which is exactly what it will be if Twitter doesn't deal with the downtime. Maybe Twitter is a victim of its own success. Could be that it is collapsing under the weight of the number of people who like it. None of that matters. People are not that forgiving. Either it gets fixed or Twitter is toast.

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