David Carr of the New York Times wrote on January 1 an article titled “Why Twitter Will Endure.” Then, today, came this report showing a steady and probably accelerating decline of Twitter usage.
So, is Twitter here to stay or has it reached its peak and already is on the decline?
For the record, I stated here a number of months ago (to loud guffaws from some) that I thought Twitter would disappear, but that what Twitter brought to the world would never disappear but prove a permanent change. What Twitter brought was the integration of various forms of instant communication including micro-blogging, text messaging, seamless distribution via web, email, text, etc. It has proven to be a highly effective means of instant communication with groups of people with whom you wish to communicate, or to audiences who have an intense desire to know what you have to say or track your every move (ala Ashton Kutcher). But, as I predicted, that functionality of exceptionally easy and fast distribution of messages to “friends” or people who connect via a network is rapidly be adopted in a variety of ways. One of the fastest growing in the emergency communication field is Nixle. I recently talked with a PIO from a large metropolitan police agency who said she would never use Twitter because of security and reliability issues but is happy with Nixle. The platform we provide (PIER) has provided Twitter functionality for a long time, but fully integrated with other modes of communication.
So I believe one of the reasons not indicated in the Mashable article is the fact that other applications and not just Twitter add-on apps, are incorporating instant communication capability–and some of these are more specifically designed for the user’s intentions. Remember that Twitter was intended to help friends share the kind of sandwiches they are eating and Twitter has pretty well stuck to that model despite obvious need to provide some security and verified accounts. One obvious reason for the design is after getting 150 tweets from somebody you pretty well know what kind of sandwiches they like and the particular form of latte they prefer, so it gets boring.
But I believe that what Carr says is also right: Like many newbies on Twitter, I vastly overestimated the importance of broadcasting on Twitter and after a while, I realized that I was not Moses and neither Twitter nor its users were wondering what I thought. Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice.
Without question the greatest value for many of Twitter is the ability to listen in on conversations (brief ones for sure) that otherwise would not be accessible to them. That can be extremely valuable and if the conversations appear on multiple different platforms and channels, and many of them more private than Twitter, this ability to listen in will be limited. And that would be a shame.
I still think Twitter will if not disappear, further diminish. In part because as far as I know they haven’t figured out any reliable funding model and once their meteoric growth slows (as it already has) then the investment dollars run and hide real fast. But, when/if it is replaced by multiple other tools that do similar or better things, we still will have lost something. Specifically, the ease of listening in.