Monday, June 23, 2008

Is Twitter the best Web 2.0 concept ever devised?

Twitter is a social networking tool that facilitates group instant chatting. While this may seem trivial and that it panders only towards young adolescents' desires to constantly be in contact with friends, the reality is that Twitter offers huge benefits to business people and entrepreneurs in terms of both networking, marketing and information sharing.

If you haven't heard of Twitter, have a look at Vinny Lingham's useful post here, as well as this Lost Art of Blogging post on why its so great and how to effectively use it.

But now the main issue - for those who don't know [ie mainly people that don't yet use Twitter], Twitter has had some major scaling issues for a while now [several months at least]. These have resulted in problems that include:

  • serious downtime of all functionality
  • im/gtalk updates not functioning
  • mobile site not working

As a point of comparison, this is like having the newest Nokia or Samsung cellphone but only being able to use the sms functionality and nothing else - ie. it leads to a highly frustrating user experience.

Even ReadWriteWeb had a lot to say about the perilous place this web 2.0 "wonder" [you wonder whether it will ever work properly] has found itself in. Charl Norman had a decent suggestion for the M&A guys over at Google recently that could help solve these problems, but it's unlikely that that would ever materialise at this rate.

Negative aspects aside though, think about these problems for a minute... what would this type of thing do to just about any online business? Or any business for that matter? Quite frankly, there's only one logical consequence - Game Over. Power off. Do not pass go and do not collect R2,000,000. Complete and utter anhilitation of the business. Yes, Twitter has pretty much messed everything up. And yet, Twitter continues to exist, and is still used. A lot!

The only consumer brand I can think of with such pulling power is Coca Cola - imagine if their entire distribution network failed and you could only buy Coke once every couple of weeks. Chances are that most people would still buy the Coke every two weeks rather than switch to another product.

Totally befuddles the mind. I honestly cannot comprehend why people still use Twitter. But that's just the way it is. And this leads me to ask what I asked in the title - Is Twitter the best web 2.0 concept ever devised? Not the best web 2.0 business, certainly. In fact, I don't even know if they have a business model at all [and I'm not the only one that feels this way. It could even be that they've missed the opportunity totally]. But surely for an internet site that barely works to still be able to attract masses of users, there must be something special about it!?

I asked a question on Twitter a little while ago about whether it is worthwhile buying the company [in this state] at a good price to apply a decent business model. Needless to say, there were no responses.

I think Twitter was down again.

You can follow me on Twitter here.And here is the satwitter wiki with a list of all the other South African suckers that just can't say goodbye to this bitter-sweet lexicon of web 2.0.


Anonymous said...

Hi Darren

I think Twitter is a great tool - if used correctly.

It was probably not designed with the intention of being used as a public messaging service with random uninformative chatter. Bearing this in mind the developers could never have foreseen such scalability issues.

It took me a while to realise and implement this, as it is very easy to fall into the "public conversation trap".

I think if people manage their Twitter using and view it as a "140 character blog post" then down-time should decrease drastically.

Melissa said...

Hey Darren, I am one of those suckers who just can't let go - despite the downtime I love the simplicity of the concept and the speed (well, usually) with which I can get answers, advice or opinions.

I've figured out where it fits in for me and although I slip into chat mode now and then on the the whole I draw huge value from it.

I tried Plurk and the flashy interface gave me the feeling it was going to be more effort...I also don't see the point in duplicating status messages on twitter and plurk so as a result just reverted to twitter.

I do hope the tech issues will be sorted soon though as I've built up a nice network and am enjoying it :)