Sunday, March 20, 2011

Article by @lizgannes makes me think new @twitter is a step back to 1950's network TV

[first published 9/16/10]

I read, with sadness, this article, "10 Things You Didn’t Know About the New" in by Liz Gannes (@lizgannes), brought to my attention by my friend @polipaca, in which Liz writes that
Twitter wants to position itself as a place for fast and easy consumption of information. Product manager Josh Elman [@joshelman] said that he expects Twitter will be more like Google than Facebook: a destination for quick visits rather than extended time-wasting and engagement sessions. Twitter users come to the service when they have an extra moment waiting in line, and return throughout the day. Elman (who previously worked at Facebook) said it’s philosophically important for Twitter that the people don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for when they access the service; they just want to be informed. (More on Twitter CEO Evan Williams’ thoughts on that topic here.) Cheng said that it’s more important for people to get a lot out of each visit to the Twitter site than it is for them to spend more time there.
Sounds to me like the twitter management erroneously thinks we need another feedreader, and that that's the way forward for Twitter's business.

As most of my Twitter friends know, twitter has been a vehicle for engagement and interaction, and that is what makes it special and unique.

It is incredible to me how ignorant and short sighted a business plan this would be.

But I don't doubt that this is an accurate description, since I've been saying for many months now that a number of Twitter's actions have been inexplicable, except as paving the way for twitter to become just another means of broadcasting information, and monetizing the process.

Chief among them was the development of the false retweet -- the rubber stamp retweet -- instead of accommodating the traditional retweet twitter's users had developed (see "The "traditional retweet" (#TR) : the key to conversation & visibility" ). This was a move meant to benefit the big paying customers, with a side effect of cheapening the twitter experience for the rest of us.

Other things like the new home page with "top tweets", top peeps, paid search results, paid additions to 'trending', suggested peeps to follow, buying up independent applications and turning them into captive twitter-only "official" applications, requiring OAuth authentication instead of username/password authentication, etc., are all part of a scheme to turn twitter into a way for companies to use tweets to promote themselves.

It was particularly sad to see twitter management equating "engagement" with "time wasting".

Twitter is clearly regressing from Web 2.0 to Web 1.0.

What's next? 1950's era television advertising?

Very sad.

I hope twitter's competitors are paying close attention.

[update 9/19/10. Twitter's adding another anti-social device: taking over exclusive control of URL-shortening, with its own shortened URL's that will always take up 20 characters]

(A short URL for this post:


  1. Hey Ray!

    Insightful post. And unfortuneately I think you hit it right on the head.

    The seasoned Twitter verterans are those that use it to engage and yes it IS possible even if you have 10s of thousands of followers.

    I have under 2000 followers but I routinely engage with influencers BECAUSE Twitter is (has been?) a place where, if you at all have your wits about you, you can actually interact with folks who you not otherwise be able to do so.

    The impending switch to appease the corporatti on Twitter may have some ironic results for the CEOs who are pushing this...the people they are expecting to advertise and broadcast "to" (as opposed to "with") will no longer be around to read your tweets. We'll have moved on to Sprouter!


    - Don

  2. Thanks for this article and your comments, Don. Also for retweeting this on Twitter. I wish I could disagree with something here, but I really can't. So what's the next Twitter if these trends don't reverse?

  3. This is super-disheartening! When is the exclusive URL shortening planned to begin? I like the competition between businesses. It keeps everybody on their toes and improving their products.

    I too, though very new, love the engagement factor. I've spoken to some of my personal heroes and heroines!

    If that is gone, and all URLs are subject to Twitter's devices, then our tweets are virtually out of our hands, and no telling whether they'll still fly or not.

    This is horrible news. Seriously horrible. Dang.

  4. Agreed Paula.
    Seems like twitter management is bound and determined to destroy twitter.


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