Has Twitter lost its luster? It's finally penetrated the consciousness of most Americans and a lot of people have accounts, but does anyone use it much for its original purposes?
I have noticed a decline in the usefulness of Twitter over the years. At one point near the beginning, I was one of the top 20 users with something like 10,000 followers. And the service was actually more useful then than it is now.
With 10,000 followers, I'd mention something using a traceable link and perhaps 3,500 people would click have clicked it. Seldom was it less than a 1,000. Now I have over 85,000 followers, which is a blip on the radar as A-list movie celebrities have millions. When I tweet a traceable link, it will maybe get the attention of 500 people.
So, while my numbers are bigger, my impact is far less. This can only be reconciled by a few possibilities: First, the newer followers are less inclined to click on links. The original followers may have bailed out and are now ghost followers with no current interest in Twitter. Perhaps most of the newer followers are ghost followers, too.
Second, there is the crowd sourcing aspect to Twitter. I use Twitter as a virtual search engine to find something that may be quite obscure. When I had 10,000 followers, they were very on the ball. Now when I crowd source a question, most of the followers who reply have nothing to suggest but say, "Let me know what you find out and repost it please!"
This tells me that the tech nerds who scoured Twitter in the early going have lost all interest and fled back to specialty forums like Slashdot. I can still get answers, but not like before.
The boots-on-the-ground reporting that is prevalent on Twitter has changed it for the better, though. I think the death of Michael Jackson first broke on Twitter as have many other news stories.
The trending topics list often shows breaking news items long before they hit the real press. It doesn't cover every story in the world, but it does break enough to make it interesting. On Wednesday, for example, I discovered early that Digg was finally bought out for a mere $500,000. This was one of the hottest news sites in the world for a while, surpassing the New York Times in page views.
Curiously, Digg parallels Twitter insofar as its timeline is concerned. Twitter began in March 2006 and Digg was started in late 2004. When you look at the sales figures versus the costs for Digg, for every six million that came in, 10 million went out. This is not the ratio you want.
But it was the waning interest in Digg and its social network model that was the problem. People just got tired of it for whatever reason. One possibility was the continual changes made to the original idea—constant tweaks that changed the nature of the service. This happened at Digg to an extreme.
This could be happening to Twitter. The company has been catering to shallow celebrities who will quickly get a few million followers then never tweet anything. Others just tweet news about their shows incessantly. This quickly gets retweeted by fans then it becomes spam for the rest of the users.
None of this is helped by outside sites that use Twitter as a mirror for the stupidity on their sites. In this case, I'm referring to foursquare. Every idiotic check-in is reposted on Twitter to people who do not care that you have checked in at the Des Moines downtown McDonald's.
So, we may be seeing a confluence of trends in and around social networking that bodes ill for all these platforms, including Facebook.
Digg had early opportunities to sell out for perhaps $100 or $200 million. Twitter did, too. It will be interesting to see where Twitter ends up as the scene further deteriorates. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter (@THErealDVORAK) to the end. We'll go down with the Twitter ship together.
Five Years Later, Jack Dorsey Tweets About Twitter's Beginnings
"I drew out the original idea on this notepad around 2001, named stat.us. Just needed the right time & team," Dorsey tweeted.
"At 5:33PM 5 years ago today, we had design, login, & update. There were only 2 people on twttr, me & @florian," Dorsey tweeted.
"A design for twttr.com settings. Note the 'extra secret mode.' That became protected mode," Dorsey tweeted.
"A week earlier, @Biz & I worked on the design to show Odeo before programming. Here's the first twttr.com," Dorsey tweeted.
"And the simplest sign up form ever. I wish it was still this easy," Dorsey tweeted.
"A design for the logged in following page (then called 'friends')," Dorsey tweeted.
Jack Dorsey's first tweet.