Friday, 31 October 2008

Twitter again - at a crossroads

So another post on Twitter. It is a fascinating case study and I am not the only one that thinks so - see Weaverluke's paper.

I think Twitter is at an interesting juncture and its actions in the next three to six months will define whether it becomes a platform, becomes a mass market brand or disappears. All three scenarios are possible.

Plagued by operational difficulties caused by having a intern design the architecture, Twitter has spent the last few months in physiotherapy being coached how to walk again. By and large this has been achieved - with the occasional wobbles we have seen this week.

The interesting element is that Twitter has open APIs to its architecture as all good web2.0 companies should. Or should they?

Gradually, as Twitter's product managers have been sitting on the bench waiting for the engineers to make sure that the court is playable, other companies have made use of that API to create their own Twitter experience. The truth is now obvious. The experience created by the likes of Twhirl and Slandr (the two I use most out of a long long list, even recommended by Twitter) means that you never need go near the Twitter domain again.

So, what now for Twitter? Eventually it will need to make some money. How is it going to do that? You'd have to argue that they need someone commercial on the team at some point - its initial use of SMS was created with the US in mind and would have bankrupted smaller African nations let alone a tech based start-up. Now it is in a situation where it arguably cannot monetise the customer directly. Indeed, others are - only this morning I read of a new initiative for people to place ads in their own tweets to be able to monetise them. (I shall not link to it - it's not my idea of Twitter).


Twitter needs to be the bitpipe and engage in an interesting play for web2.0 - charge for its APIs (would this be a first? I cannot think of another example from this new world). I actually think at this point it is the smarter play.


It needs to put the platform issues behind it and build or buy its way to leading the user experience again. Its acquisition track history is not good. It acquired the excellent Summize earlier this year and yet the functionality to the market is less than it was when it was acquired (I miss Labs!!). So, it is now up to Twitter to compete again hundreds of smaller players - already monetising the traffic that Twitter is not.

If it were not for the economic downturn and the fact that these players all rely on the API for their business, I'd say this strategy was doomed to fail.

With a bit of manoevering, judicious use of both strategies could see Twitter emerge as the master of its own genius again. Can they do it? Do they have the team to do so? Time will tell.

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1 comment:

Martin Liebermann / zeitspuren said...
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