Recently, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo chimed in on the Google+, Facebook and Twitter battle/war/balloon-fight that has been waging over the years. His thoughts? “We are going to compete on simplicity.“
Twitter, obviously, isn’t necessarily a direct competitor to either Google+ or Facebook, but it has nevertheless often been compared to the two for the huge impact that it has had on the world and social media as a whole. It has become the go-to medium for organizing rallies and revolutions, and is an easy way to hear about news as quickly as just seconds after events occur.
But competing on simplicity? I call shenanigans. Here’s why.
Problem #1: The Spam Network
First of all, Twitter is, in many ways, a convoluted mess of things. It has all but been taken over by spam, ads and useless tweets. At its best, it’s a great communication platform. At its worst, it’s a muddled mess of meaningless information — a spam network.
That’s part of the reason why I have trouble believing that Twitter will compete on simplicity. Currently, Twitter is a broadcast engine. The information that is being transmitted through it is often for one sole purpose: To provoke other users into retweeting, replying to or clicking on that broadcast.
The problem with that is that it creates a cluttered mess of millions of users yelling over each other for a person’s attention. In that sense, there is no two-way street. There is no incentive for the people that aren’t already vying for one another’s attention to contribute to that mess because they get little to no return from it.
Problem #2: The 10%
And that certainly relates to the issue of retention. Currently, just 10% of Twitter’s users account for 90% of Twitter’s activity. That might not be a problem now with there being no other preferable alternative for most, but as competitors eventually begin to crop up (and, undoubtedly, they will), that will certainly begin to become more and more problematic for Twitter. After all, with Facebook increasingly monopolizing the Internet’s time with increased user engagement, having only 10% of your user base actively using your platform isn’t necessarily good. Why? Because having somebody that is already minimally invested in your platform use it sparsely as is makes it really easy for them to switch over to a much more attractive option because, well, why not?
Problem #3: The Timeline Problem
And that brings me to my third and final problem: The Timeline problem. Right now, it’s fine that 90% of Twitter’s activity is by 10% of their users. The issue is that, for everyone else, Twitter is essentially useless. It is just another medium with which to read news, or updates from their friends, but little beyond that. It’s quick, sure. They can engage with it at their own will without any fear of being left behind, absolutely.
But it’s also kind of useless. The problem with Twitter’s simplicity is that it has absolutely no baring or meaning in the lives of the users that inhabit it. Aside from a few pictures here and there through Twitpic, there are no profiles. There are only tweets, links and news stories.
Facebook, on the other hand, has timeline. Google+ has a users feeds and photos as well. In essence, they are helping us create our digital scrapbooks in ways in which Twitter simply can’t compete in right now. They have meanings to our lives because through our communications, friendships and shares, we have built something that ultimately lasts much longer than simple tweets.
But at the same time, that’s not what Twitter is going for. Twitter is cornering the market on simplicity, and I commend them on that. Twitter’s simplicity is what has allowed it to thrive for so long.
Still, there lies the question of whether or not Twitter — in a world full of digital solutions that store pieces of us up into the digital clouds — can survive as something that is simply a digital messenger.
On the one hand, Costolo is ensuring us that Twitter is going to remain competitive solely based on simplicity.
On the other hand, our friends, families and, ultimately, lives are calling for us and insisting that complexity is great because it allows us to reflect. And it’s reminding us that our lives are so much more than just silly tweets.
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