People ask me why I don't twitter, or 'tweet,' or whatever verb you want to apply to the now-omnipresent site. Or, more accurately, why my Twitter account hasn't been updated in months--as lightly used as the food processor in my cabinet or a moribund Friendster profile from 2003.
Even Sarah Palin now has a Twitter account, which is probably a good litmus test as to whether something is still edgy (hint: the relationship is inverse).
People often speak about Twitter in the bemused tones they once reserved for run-of-the-mill blogging. I'm not won over. My objection stems not from issues with solipsism or excessive absorption in the minutiae of one's daily activities:
"Jared is watching American Idol"
"Jared is dropping of a shirt and the dry cleaner because he spilled Fanta on himself"
"Jared stubbed his toe"
These have become a (perhaps unfortunate) reality of our era: the blurred line betwixt public and private, where nothing is a) sacred or b) too small to report.
The reason I don't like Twitter is because it's redundant.
We're not talking rocket science here. Churning out 140-character updates on the relative quality of your lunch does not warrant its own site. Some variation of status updates on Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn accomplish just that--plus you're linked to lots of other features and already connected with your friends.
If you are Ashton Kutcher, Twitter might help you realize your goals of popularity--connecting, however glibly--to your legions of fans in yet another way. But if you are the hypothetical Melissa Pemberton of Salt Ste. Marie, Michigan (apologies if you actually exist, Melissa), your main goal is keeping in touch with friends. You already have a device for that: aforementioned social networking sites.
As industry colleague Steve Rubel will tell you, internet consolidation is imminent: most people will listen to music, read the news, and buy something on Amazon all through one main portal. That's still years away, and the prognosticators may well be wrong. But Twitter's fate is still grim, even in the shorter term. People will get bored, perhaps not of microblogging, but of going to a separate site when it's unnecessary. Even as we speak, Twitter's functionality is being gobbled up by the social networks; there's a robust Twitter app on Facebook. There will be no good reason to go to Twitter. The unmonetizable site will dry up and die a slow death.
It seems that I might not be alone in my displeasure. Just a few days back, Nielsen online reported that Twitter sheds 60% of its first-time users. This 40% retention rate is only expected to allow ultimately for 10% penetration of the the online community.
So, my advice to Twitter:
You held out last year's talks to be acquired by Facebook. Well done: you're now worth a lot more. But the time has come to set yourself free by selling out. We've seen what exclusive agreements can do for growth, particularly with technology that skews younger and is deemed hip (think iPhone and AT&T).
Twitter in its current incarnation is a fad, and it will fade as technology continues to make it less relevant. Make like it's 1999: tether yourself to an industry behemoth--preferably Facebook--cash in, and get out...while you still can. That, or invest like crazy in new technology to make the site more than it already is.
And, while you're at it, help Facebook figure out how to make some cash, before they go the way of The Rocky Mountain News (RIP) and snap bracelets.
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