Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Twitter me unimpressed

“All day long at school I hear how great Twitter is at this or how wonderful Twitter did that! Twitter, Twitter, Twitter!”

That’s how I feel about microblogging service Twitter. The above quote is from “The Brady Bunch,” except I substituted Twitter for Jan’s older, more popular sister Marcia.
I admit it – I don’t get Twitter. The content seems pretty worthless. It’s mostly a lot of blather.
I’ve been tracking a dozen users of Twitter and reading their posts. I’ve also searched for information and news across the Twitter network. But again, I haven’t found much use for it.
Even the company behind it hasn’t found a business case for the service. It’s a money loser that doesn’t have any revenue. Its backers have been scrambling to find a way to make money on it. (See March 17 New York Times article.)
Twitter has vocal fans and critics.
A coworker says he thinks the service is going to be a huge deal. Just look at the uptake of it, he says. Millions of people are using it, he says. He compared it to the early days of Google, when people questioned why the world needed another Internet search engine.
But search is one of the key uses of the Internet. Posting messages (or “tweets”) of no more than 140 characters each probably isn’t.
While I don’t think Twitter will fizzle like once-hyped virtual worlds such as Second Life, I don’t think it will make it as a standalone business.
I think microblogging will be like e-mail and instant messaging, communications services that were rolled into large Internet offerings from the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google.
I see some valuable uses for Twitter. One is filling the space between e-mail and blog posts for people to stay in touch with their family and friends. (Letting others know when they’re on travel, etc.)
Another is the immediacy of Twitter – posts are instantly searchable. That’s not the case with search engines like Google. Also, since Twitter posts are so short, professional and amateur news-gatherers can get information out much faster than current methods.
But I’m not sure Twitter will be able to capitalize on those uses. Following the dead pioneers business scenario, other services could learn from Twitter’s mistakes and find a business case that works. Other services already are leveraging Twitter’s infrastructure for their own gain, such as stock news service StockTwits.

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