depending on what you read lately, twitter is either the next big thing or yesterday’s news. I’ll summarize the two positions. pro-twitter: twitter has reached the tipping point. just look at the growth! naysayers: twitter has jumped the shark because it has gotten too popular. confused yet? wait, there’s more.
acnielsen, the tv ratings guys, measure other stuff as well – including, it turns out, twitter usage. they released a report last week that provided ammo for both sides (not to mention a reason to hire the research firm for pricey custom studies). the report acknowledged twitter’s hockey stick gains in user numbers, but qualified by noting that 60% of new users had not returned in the next month.
among notables casting a yes vote for twitter is internet sage om malick, who relates a fun anecdote about a mall sales clerk asking how to use the service to sell more shirts. not the most compelling piece of evidence that twitter can’t fail, perhaps, but he’s on the right track. on the other side is internet curmudgeon john dvorak, who mutters ominously about the threat to “real users” posed by teeming hordes of oprah fans clogging twitter’s pipes with choruses of “o no you dit-tent.” dvorak compares the twitter phenomenon with the cb radio craze of the 70s, with oprah playing the part of c.w. mccall.
In my comment on dvorak’s column, I note that the nielsen report is evidence that twitter is unlikely to grow too big, too fast. when you’re working with a text-only, 140 character medium, you realize quickly that this ain’t no facebook. the lookie-lous will go back to sharing the five celebrities with whom they share a birthday. The fact the 40% of those users did come back is evidence that the service has traction, which brings us to my other issue with the dvorak piece. cb radio hit a hard wall in the 70s when a bunch of new users on a single function device overwhelmed a government-mandated capacity cap. if twitter jams up for a few hours, users aren’t going to abandon the internet. computers won’t be collecting dust with cabbage patch kids and bicentennial quarters. if more capacity is needed, somebody out there will give twitter the money to buy it – and at some point, figure out how to make their money back.
What do you think? is twitter large and in charge? or will it be as forgotten as 28.8 dial-up?