While Twitter has done a lot of things of late that may be disappointing or annoying or even infuriating—such as pulling the rug out of the 3rd party ecosystem that helped them get off the ground in the first place—most of those things haven’t been surprising. The writing was on the wall for a long time that Twitter would implement a business model based on eyeballs and while those of us that had been users from the beginning hoped that they’d find a different way, it’s not surprising that they chose to go down this path.
Remember kids, if you’re not paying for it, you’re probably the product.
Given that, remaking the native apps to be more inline with their website presentation and however they are going to shove ads into our attention span isn’t surprising. Putting limits and restrictions on how third-party clients can present timelines? Not surprising. Going so far to put limits on the number of third-party clients out there? Not surprising at all.
I am Twitter’s worst enemy, unless perhaps Twitter proves itself to be its own worst enemy. That wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
I’m Twitter’s product. To date, I’ve been mostly satisfied with most of Twitter, such that it’s the social media channel is the place I spend more of my time than any other service (#2 is Facebook; #3 is G+, 4 is Stack Exchange, and 5 is linkedin). I’m not a “draw” on Twitter. I’m not a trend setter. I don’t pretend to be, or particularly want to be one. I’m a user. And I’m exactly what Twitter is trying to monetize. And I don’t mind being monetized — within reason.
Twitter seems to have forgotten a key fact, though. I’m not there for Twitter, per se. I’m there because all of you other people are there, and I’m hanging out with you. Twitter is just the place I hang out at. The same is true of Facebook, but the crew at Facebook a different crew — Twitter is my geek hangout, Facebook is where my family, friends and etc hang out.
If the people I hang out with at Twitter go elsewhere, there’s zero reason for me to be on Twitter. And Twitter’s recently been on a “hey, thanks for building this into a huge network of people, we don’t need you any more” thing with many of the people who are the reasons I’m on Twitter. Twitter probably doesn’t need to care, but maybe they’re going to regret this some day.
The way I look at it, the geeks came, they created stuff around Twitter. That brought in people attracted by the geeks, and that grew a network big enough to get noticed. It because a trendy place to be, then it because an expected place to be. Along the way, that attracted the brands and celebrities, and those attracted the mainstream. Just like Facebook. Now, Twitter’s made it clear it cares about the brands and celebrities and the mainstream, and the geeks and founders and builders? They can stay, or they can go; it’s not that Twitter’s trying to get rid of them, merely that Twitter no longer cares what they do.
But what I keep thinking about is this: if that group does leave Twitter and go some other place, what’s left is — well, it’s going to be more or less indistinguishable from Facebook. And if Twitter turns itself into another form of Facebook — which is pretty clearly what it’s trying to do — do all of those people in the mainstream still need both?
While I see Twitter successfully trying to turn themselves into something that looks very like Facebook, what I don’t see if Twitter doing anything to answer the question “why am I on both Facebook and Twitter anyway?”, especially if Facebook tweaks things in a way that makes it easy for Twitter traffic to move on over. You don’t want to be the N+1 service in someone’s life with no special attraction to make you worth their time. Just ask Digg. or Slashdot.
The question Twitter doesn’t seem to be considering is this: as it continues the “Facebookification” of itself, what about Twitter makes it a place people like me will want to be involved in? And if everything on Twitter I care about is also on Facebook, or on Google+, or on (name whatever service you like), why do I need to put time into both places?
And what I’m not seeing out of Twitter is any answer to that question. They’re so busy trying to become Facebook they don’t seem to have considered how to stay different from Facebook that people are willing to spend time both places. If they don’t figure that out, at some point increasing numbers of people will start making choices to only be on one service again, and if Twitter goes up against Facebook to be “that place you spend time”, Twitter’s likely to lose.
Me? I’ll still be on Twitter — to the degree it’s interesting to me. And that’s tied directly to who’s on it. And that’s something Twitter doesn’t seem to be managing well, and doesn’t seem to care about. And it’s at risk of not figuring that out until it’s too late.