I think Twitter is heading for real trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the platform, and I was a very early adopter having been on there since 2007, but they do seem to be having an existential problem right now. When Facebook first arrived (and I joined there very early too) it was a very different space to how it is now. If I wanted to know what was happening I went to Twitter. Facebook was still in its we’re the new MySpace phase. It hadn’t caught on that what people wanted to see was a running list of updates from friends as their home page. For a while Twitter was bigger than Facebook, and it wasn’t until they totally copied Twitter’s timeline feature and made that the focus that Facebook ballooned into the behemoth it is today.
Facebook continues to grow and add new features. Yesterday a new button appeared on my iOS app called Marketplace. There really is no stopping them. They’ve sussed out, like Amazon, Google and Apple, that it’s the features and user experience that will keep people with you. Spotify has this same constant development aspect which is keeping them the number one streaming service. It’s the way things are. But Twitter just doesn’t seem to have that same fire and vision for change. They’ve tried it, and to be honest some of the things have made the platform worse. One of the things that made Twitter different was their real time timeline. I dreaded the day they added an algorithm that chose what it thought I wanted to see. They did it anyway. Now I have a front end filled with old posts, before I scroll down to get to the new ones. Not good.
See the thing is I don’t think Twitter is a social network. If anything it’s a news platform. I remember when they first launched they called themselves a micro-blogging site, and that still rings true. But now Facebook has become so large, and continues to want to be the only place anyone needs to go on the web (when will they introduce a search engine and operating system? It’s coming that’s for sure) Twitter’s options are narrowing.
There’s another major problem for Twitter. When Facebook and Twitter launched it was right at the beginning of this social networking explosion. Almost everyone who had a smart phone signed up. Frantically followed all of their friends and, oh my gods, celebrities! See that Tweet? That was actually written by Stephen Fry! Like, actually him! That was something very new. Famous people were always slightly out of reach, now they were right there, on your phone. It was an exciting time. But 9 years later, and our lives are filled with noise. We are beginning to not care what so-called celebrities have to say. And the explosion of social networking gave anyone who could post lots of stuff the potential to become an Internet Celebrity. Famous for nothing more than having a lot of time on their hands, and a smartphone with a camera. All of this added even more to the noise, and even I found myself not wanting to open Twitter. New accounts can really struggle to get new followers. Most people seem to have their favourite sources of information and stick to them. New accounts get lost within the noise of everyone wanting to be heard and that is also not good for Twitter’s growth.
So it’s going to be a tough time for Twitter. If Facebook can successfully integrate trending topics, and not have them fill up your homepage, that trouble might deepen. Twitter is still the place I go for instant news. They should focus of strengthening that aspect of the platform. Give us back the real time timeline. The Moments tab is good, but they could do so much more with it, the overall aesthetic of the website hasn’t been updated for years.
Maybe Twitter will be bought out by one of the major players. Would that be a good thing? Only if whoever bought it saw the true strength of the platform, and didn’t change it to challenge the mighty Facebook as just another social network.
We shall see.