Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Business Week’s Outlook for Twitter: Bleak

Lately it’s been relatively smooth sailing on Twitter—I haven’t seen the “fail whale” in a while, and, aside from the one time Twitter accidentally deleted everyone’s followers/followees, I can’t really think of any recent problems with the service (knock wood).

But just when the waters seem to be relatively calm, I read this article in Business Week that pointed out three recent shifts at Twitter that are making investors think twice about the service's ultimate worth.

The first seed of doubt was apparently sown back in April when Twitter launched in Japan. Suddenly the home page for every user included a big banner ad in the top of the screen--something that hasn't sullied us U.S. users' serene Twitter pages. Then on August 7, Twitter set a limit on the number of people each user can follow to 2,000—there went the "limitless" potential for marketers. Then last week Twitter killed SMS service to all countries except the U.S., Canada and India. Add all three together and it pretty much spells trouble in paradise.

The article quickly goes into complicated math-ish formulas that I won't even begin to try to understand, let alone summarize, but the ultimate conclusion seems to be that Twitter is not the gigantic communications network of 2.3million users squared (Business Week's figure) that it was first presumed to be, and because of this, there's a chance that the whale could ultimately fail due to lack of revenue.

I won't try to break it down any further--just read the article and draw your own conclusions. I will say that reading it did make me wonder what will happen if Twitter continues to become an integral part of organization's communications plans only to one day just close up shop. At first I--like everyone else--was extremely skeptical about Twitter in general, not to mention as a business tool. However, over the past few months it's begun to make more and more sense to me and it's definitely earned my respect. I use it both for fun and to promote my blog and it's proving to serve me well for both those purposes.

As much as I've disparaged it in the past, I would be disappointed (to say the least)if it went under, and not happy if suddenly every third tweet had an ad attached to it. I guess I'm being melodramatic and jumping to conclusions--the article seems to suggest that, rather than disappear entirely, Twitter will merely become more commercialized. Still--I like Twitter the way it is and don't love reading something that suggests that the happy bubble that is Twitter could burst at any minute.

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