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A Eulogy for Twitter
April 30, 2014 10:51 AM   Subscribe

The Atlantic: "Something is wrong on Twitter. And people are noticing. Or, at least, the kind of people we hang around with on Twitter are noticing. And it's maybe not a very important demographic, this very weird and specific kind of user: audience-obsessed, curious, newsy. Twitter's earnings last quarter, after all, were an improvement on the period before, and it added 14 million new users for a total of 255 million. The thing is: Its users are less active than they once were. Twitter says these changes reflect a more streamlined experience, but we have a different theory: Twitter is entering its twilight."

Financial aspects, over the last few days:

Reuters: "Wall Street remains divided over Twitter as the seven-year-old company prepares to unveil only its second set of quarterly numbers on Tuesday. Eleven of 31 investment analysts polled by Thomson Reuters rate it a 'sell', outnumbering the seven who deem it a 'buy'. The rest have a hold rating or its equivalent."

Forbes: "The problem is that most investors and advertisers alike still don’t understand that Twitter isn’t Facebook and never will be - and that that may very well be a good thing."

Salon: "When your growth in user numbers starts to slow before you are anywhere near sniffing a profit, investors get worried. Even worse, the growth in 'timeline views' - the number of times Twitter users check into Twitter to see what people are saying - is lagging the growth in user numbers. In 2014, total activity still hasn’t matched its 2013 peak."

Quartz: "But the most alarming figure is that Twitter generated $1.44 in advertising revenue for every 1,000 timeline views, down from $1.49 in the previous quarter. That’s the best measure of the company’s ability to make money from its existing base of users, and it’s going in the wrong direction."

Motherboard: "Trend Junky’s articles and slideshows, with titles like Celebrity Prom Pictures and ObamaCare Facts for Young Adults, draw traffic from MyTurnOns and other accounts directly controlled by Quisenberry and from an affiliate network of about 175 Twitter users. They promote the site’s content for a share of ad revenue."
posted by Wordshore (175 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Trend Junky’s articles and slideshows, with titles like Celebrity Prom Pictures and ObamaCare Facts for Young Adults, draw traffic from MyTurnOns and other accounts directly controlled by Quisenberry and from an affiliate network of about 175 Twitter users. They promote the site’s content for a share of ad revenue."

You know, I do a fair amount of digital media for a living, and I am continually amazed at how the English language can support such utterances. Those are definitely words, assembled in sentences, most likely syntactically correct, but it's goddamn word salad. Word salad!
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:53 AM on April 30 [45 favorites]


Serious question since I just looked at Twitter for the first time in well over a year - when did the Facebook-esque user profile happen?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 10:55 AM on April 30


Like, this week or last. Really recently. I haven't opted into that yet.
posted by Maaik at 10:57 AM on April 30


playertobenamedlater,

Within the past 10 days or so, twitter is slowly rolling it out to users, beginning with new users and then allowing existing users to opt-in.
posted by fizzix at 10:57 AM on April 30


Twitter entering its twilight years?

I must be using a different Twitter then.
posted by Kitteh at 10:59 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Those Facebook-like profiles are absolutely horrid. The worst possible direction to take. Almost enough to make me stop using the official twitter page, if I weren't unfortunately obsessed with favorites and other gamifying hooks.

I haven't been paying attention, how is this company still not "anywhere near sniffing a profit"? Their userbase must be enormous, they're getting ads / promoted tweets in front of eyeballs, and culturally Twitter is way more relevant than Facebook ever was. I don't get it.
posted by naju at 11:02 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Twitter's not in its twilight. LiveJournal is in its twilight. Twilight is the last moment before things go dark. Twitter just isn't the New Hotness any more.
posted by Spatch at 11:02 AM on April 30 [39 favorites]


I don't know anyone who uses the web timeline to read Twitter, really. I use Tweetdeck, most people I know use the Twitter client on their phone, or one of the other mobile/tablet clients. And Twitter is doing better than other places (e.g. FB) in holding on to the teen userbase.

I wonder how many of the "declining growth in user numbers!!" issues are because they are getting better at dealing with spam accounts?

On preview: what Spatch said.
posted by gemmy at 11:05 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


The problem with the Internet is that it was built on a fantasy of free, free, free!

Nothing is free. They're either selling your information, ads you have to watch, or going down beneath the waves.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:05 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Adrian Chen: Should you go on Twitter?
posted by RogerB at 11:06 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Twitter will never truly die until there's a viable replacement that isn't Facebook or (the soon to be late) Google+.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:08 AM on April 30


teens prefer twitter because their parents are on facebook.

I'm even creeped out by the fact that my aunt now follows me on twitter, and I'm 36.
posted by jb at 11:08 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


I can't live in a world without Dril tho
posted by hellojed at 11:09 AM on April 30 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it's part of the life cycle of any tech company that blogs will begin declaring it to be on its last legs sooner or later, whether it actually is or not.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:09 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Twitter: We Actually Have A Billion Users. Discusses Twitter's MoPub mobile ads platform and its analogy to Google Adsense.
posted by Nelson at 11:09 AM on April 30


teens prefer twitter because their parents are on facebook.


So do certain 39 year olds.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:10 AM on April 30 [17 favorites]


oh I hope so. I hate it so much.
posted by agregoli at 11:10 AM on April 30 [10 favorites]


if i signed up for twitter and started divulging all the exciting events of my day in 140-character snippets, how many of you would agree to follow me and hang there in suspense for my next tweet?

yeah, that's what i thought.
posted by bruce at 11:11 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: "You know, I do a fair amount of digital media for a living, and I am continually amazed at how the English language can support such utterances. Those are definitely words, assembled in sentences, most likely syntactically correct, but it's goddamn word salad. Word salad!"

Um, it's just as much "word salad" as any utterances that include a lot of proper names of people or products.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:11 AM on April 30


Any eulogy that's based on how you "feel" is basically the equivalent of "I feel like I don't see this guy around as much as I used to. He feels dead. So I wrote his eulogy."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:12 AM on April 30 [39 favorites]


Spatch: "Twitter's not in its twilight. LiveJournal is in its twilight."

SHUT YER MOUTH!
posted by symbioid at 11:12 AM on April 30 [11 favorites]


What agregoli and bruce said.
posted by Melismata at 11:12 AM on April 30


Who wants to read about what I ate for lunch, right???
posted by naju at 11:13 AM on April 30 [7 favorites]


I actually don't have a problem with Google+. The signal-to-noise ratio of my feed is very high. It's a nice, comfy little social network.

(G+ probably sucks as a marketing platform, which is probably why I like it so much.)

I don't use Twitter anymore, because I followed too many people, and now have no idea how to clean it up... I thought that Twitter was a bit silly back when it was the new hotness, but admired the fact that it got a lot of people/organizations communicating without a PR filter.

That latter advantage has gradually gone out the window, so... yeah. I don't tweet much. These days, I mainly only follow Twitter through stellar, and let my small circle of contacts find the most interesting stuff for me.
posted by schmod at 11:13 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Twitter will never truly die until there's a viable replacement that isn't Facebook or (the soon to be late) Google+.

Why does Twitter need to be replaced? No one ever thought we needed it before it existed. Few people ever did, actually.

and culturally Twitter is way more relevant than Facebook ever was. I don't get it.

That's because that's not true. It seemed so because it was most popular with an especially vocal base of people whose job it is to be especially vocal.
posted by deathmaven at 11:14 AM on April 30 [9 favorites]


Twitter is my favourite internet social medium. I like how it's fast-paced, topical, and conversation-focused, and the character limit promotes linguistic concision and inventiveness (versus how ten years ago blogs, when they were in the cultural vanguard, seemed to promote word-count bloat and a certain stodginess of language).

Twitter shines best during breaking news, and has proven absolutely invaluable during breaking local news, like extreme weather events etc. This January, when the island blew its electric grid and people were in the dark for days during a record cold-snap, it was twitter that told us where warming centres were.
posted by erlking at 11:17 AM on April 30 [30 favorites]


Twitter is obviously dying, because I joined a few months ago which is usually the kiss of death for once-popular services. Twitter's (the company) real problem is that it was hideously overvalued and will require huge population-destroying changes to get a few quarters of profit before everybody leaves for good. If it was just some privately-owned site that provided a good service and sold a few ads then it would be sustainable indefinitely.

I also like G+, but only tech people use it.
posted by AndrewStephens at 11:18 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Also one time Margaret Atwood retweeted me and I was walking around on a cloud all day.
posted by erlking at 11:18 AM on April 30 [32 favorites]


It's funny, when I worked in startups, I was always the bad guy for saying "I dunno, doesn't it seem reasonable that at some point we will have touched everyone that could possibly be interested in a free to play game of this type/social network/doodad whatever? Can we really plan on exponential growth forever?"

I really like Twitter and have made/met some of my very favorite friends and people on there but yeah, I never saw how they were going to make money from it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:19 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


The Twitter thing that bugs me most is the use by TV of celebrity tweets to replace actual comments from human beings whenever anything happens. Like that Bob Hoskins obituary piece in the Grauniad:

"The actor Kate Hardie, who worked with Hoskins on Mona Lisa, took to Twitter to pay her respects."

yuck
posted by chavenet at 11:19 AM on April 30 [14 favorites]


Can we really plan on exponential growth forever?

This is kind of the problem with most businesses.
posted by Melismata at 11:21 AM on April 30 [17 favorites]


So I have some ideas for a microblogging service that enforce certain arbitrary restrictions or effects.

One concept I had is now being done for images... "snapchat". I called my concept "impermanet" The idea was "who really actually goes back and reads all that shit? why do you store an inordinate amount and have it there for users when nobody takes time to reflect 5 minutes ago, let alone 1 year or more" Well, of course, the answer is "advertising demographics". But, yes. bitrot, decay, impermanence as a feature, not a bug. People are already in the moment or future obsessed, there's no need to store all that shit.

Another couple, related in concept, and having to do with "quality content" is this:

1) OneADay: You get one post a day, make it count. I think my idea with this wasn't so much a microblog as it was just a regular blog or social network like LJ. You can say maybe x hundred words in a post a day.

2) PlusMinus: I can't remember the actual name for this idea, but it was essentially the idea of "karma". I think the idea was one positive and one negative post a day, but I think the more I think about it, it would be interesting to sort of split and rate over time positive and negative posts. You can see your own states shifting over time, get graphs, etc. All you'd have to do to post is hit a plus or minus and it would automatically file your posts on the proper side of the screen (it would be left/right->positive/negative) so you can see both posts at a time.

There is so much more conceptual experimentation out there that can and should be done when it comes to user interaction and social networks and diarying, but we're stuck in these frameworks of giving people everything they want (or don't, as is often the case). All in the name of pleasing advertisers. And the open source knockoffs are just that: knockoffs, clones. Where's the fucking innovation? P2P blogging/social network systems are the best innovation that I can think of, and that's a hell of a thing to get going right. Why not evolutions on the traditional concepts but just add some constraints?

Because Almighty Dollar.
posted by symbioid at 11:21 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


*waited for the "I don't have a Twitter account/Twitter is dumb" responses, was not disappointed*
posted by Kitteh at 11:21 AM on April 30 [8 favorites]


Facebook is where I play nice cause MeMaw's on it, Twitter is where I cuss and post inappropriate things.

It's also good for horrible events news, one-liners, and candid commentary from semi-famous people I like to follow. Semi-famous is better than famous because famous people are having their assistants do Twitter.
posted by emjaybee at 11:22 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


The problem with the Internet is that it was built on a fantasy of free, free, free!

There is certainly free stuff on the internet, it's no fantasy. But it doesn't look like Facebook or Twitter, it cannot drive a for-profit company. At its best we end up with something like Mozilla, Wikipedia or Craigslist, organizations that have no interest in drawing venture capital.
posted by JHarris at 11:22 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


LiveJournal is more like hanging by a thread. It'll probably die completely in the next couple weeks, shut down by the Russians after they invade the Ukraine.
posted by happyroach at 11:23 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I talk to Mathowie on twitter a lot
posted by Brainy at 11:23 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


*waited for the "I don't have a Twitter account/Twitter is dumb" responses, was not disappointed*

And? Seems like a reasonable, logical supposition for the question of "why is Twitter dying"?
posted by deathmaven at 11:23 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


"The actor Kate Hardie, who worked with Hoskins on Mona Lisa, took to Twitter to pay her respects."

yuck


Why? It's an incredibly public forum in which to call attention to something, and what better way to pay respects than getting someone's name out there in a very public conversation?

When PSH died, it was somehow comforting to read everyone sharing memories of him, articles on/interviews with him, and clips from his better moments. It was great, really.
posted by xmutex at 11:23 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


(And two of those companies accept contributions, so it's not "free" really, just not sold.)
posted by JHarris at 11:23 AM on April 30


I dunno. I can understand not being crazy about Twitter, but compared to Facebook I want to MARRY Twitter. For all its faults and (relative) strengths: if I follow someone on Twitter and I pay attention I will see their tweets, and vice versa. It has been engineered to not be true on Facebook and really: fuck that. Personally and professionally I find that unconscionable.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:23 AM on April 30 [25 favorites]




I have something like 11.5k followers. I tweet a few times per day, a percentage of whichr regularly gets retweeted, I get into a few twitter conversations per week, I follow a bunch of people whose tweets I find useful or interesting. I definitely get breaking news from twitter before anywhere else. I pick up new followers at a rate of a few a day, and lose them at a slightly slower rate. I started tweeting after Twitter's big breakthrough at South by Southwest, so I was an early adopter, if not a bleeding edge adopter.

By Omaha standards, I'm a super-user. Hell, by most standards, I'm a pretty entrenched user. It's become part of the background radiation of my life. But I also know this: when it tries to be anything else, it become irritating. If people try to market me on Twitter, I unfollow them. If people try to get fighty with me, I block them.

Twitter was exciting when people didn't know what it was, so it could be anything. But, like most things, it turned into the thing it was going to be, which is stuff like Weird Twitter and fun little epigrams and comics trying out their routines and a ticker for breaking news. And I don't know how to monetize that, and I suspect a lot of people are like me -- if Twitter tries to be anything other than what it evolved into being, because they can't afford to be what they turned into, I will leave the service. Because whether or not they make money is not my concern. I can't help them with their market plan. I know how Twitter works best for me, and I know how it doesn't work for me, and I suspect that the stuff that works makes no money and the stuff that doesn't is the only stuff that can turn a profit.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:24 AM on April 30 [24 favorites]


So the trend is new service, exponential growth, overvaluation, slowing of growth as number of persons using it approaches actual physical population of potential users, market correction to correct valuation, OH NOES MY STOCKS ABANDON SHIP IT IS DYING?
posted by caution live frogs at 11:24 AM on April 30 [8 favorites]


Don't most of the folks offering "free" stufff on the internet make a decent chunk of change via PayPal donations and selling merchandise?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 11:25 AM on April 30


(Yes, see my followup comment a little above.)
posted by JHarris at 11:26 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


The problem with the Internet is that it was built on a fantasy of free, free, free!

The Internet was not built as a platform for making money. People decided later (long after it was "built") that it should do that for them.
posted by thelonius at 11:27 AM on April 30 [33 favorites]


All we need is the government to step in. Twitter should become a public service, like interstate highways or the post office.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:29 AM on April 30


Sounds like all the profit sources from upside speculation are nearing exhaustion. Time to get those Put options in and start trashing it in the media to maximize the overcorrection.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:29 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Twitter is probably overvalued, underappreciated at the moment. Essentially because using twitter well is non-obvious.

My twitter rules.
1.Follow real people not brands or organisations
2.Try and meet interesting people in real life
3. Never get in an argument or adopt a non-charitable interpretation of a tweet - 140 characters destroys nuance.
4. Follow less people
5. Only follow people who value your time - if they tweet mundane things or things you are not interested in, even if they are interesting people it is ok to unfollow them.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 11:31 AM on April 30 [7 favorites]


I miss LiveJournal. I, and people I knew, used to actually post thoughtful things there. Long-form. Deeply personal, philosophical.

And then everyone I knew on LJ moved to Facebook, where we post article links, pet pictures, two-sentence movie reviews and goofy captions. And I think most of us secretly miss LJ while not actually posting on it or checking it anymore. It's just inertia.

I have no idea why I should participate on Twitter. It seems even more shallow and empty than FB. (And aren't all the cool kids on Tumblr now anyway?)

I feel more inclined to just write in a private journal like I used to back in the dark ages, or at least, a real blog or something.
posted by Foosnark at 11:32 AM on April 30 [14 favorites]


I never saw how they were going to make money from it.

You mean other than the $250M revenue last quarter? They make money via ads. Now that's revenue, not profit, but if you look at the EBIDTA profit numbers they're not doing bad.

The press this week is all about the Twitter social network (you know, the one that's "in its twilight" despite seeing it everywhere on TV, movies, newspapers, etc). But the other half of Twitter that's more interesting to me now is the mobile ads platform. The entire Internet user base is moving to mobile viewership and none of the established ad companies have quite figured out how to do effective mobile ads yet. Twitter has a interesting take on a mobile ads platform and it's generating a lot of revenue.

FWIW, I own some Twitter stock. Also have friends who work there. I don't know if Twitter is a good investment or not, this comment is not intended as financial advice.
posted by Nelson at 11:33 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


xmutex: ""The actor Kate Hardie, who worked with Hoskins on Mona Lisa, took to Twitter to pay her respects."

yuck


Why? It's an incredibly public forum in which to call attention to something, and what better way to pay respects than getting someone's name out there in a very public conversation?

When PSH died, it was somehow comforting to read everyone sharing memories of him, articles on/interviews with him, and clips from his better moments. It was great, really.
"

Because it's the laziest journalism. It's not the tweeting that bugs me - that makes sense and I agree with you about the crowd effect at certain moments.
posted by chavenet at 11:34 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I'll read about William Carlos Williams' lunch any day.

I also don't think it's a coincidence that the media started eulogizing Twitter right after highlighting its racial and ethnic diversity.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:36 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Twitter's at peak
It's in trouble deep
But I've made up my mind
I'm keeping my Facebook

I'm gonna keep my Facebook
posted by Renoroc at 11:38 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Because it's the laziest journalism. It's not the tweeting that bugs me - that makes sense and I agree with you about the crowd effect at certain moments.

It isn't journalism. It's saying, loudly, to endless eyeballs, hey, I really liked this person, and now they are gone.
posted by xmutex at 11:39 AM on April 30


Because it's the laziest journalism.

And the cheapest. I imagine bosses love it.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 11:39 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I quite like using Twitter, but if it means a few dot com billionaires might lose some money then I'm all for it dying. All this stuff is just advertising. People still need to eat and stuff.
posted by colie at 11:40 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Why does Twitter need to be replaced? No one ever thought we needed it before it existed. Few people ever did, actually.

Instant Messaging, Vaccines and Air Travel are looking at you.
posted by jscott at 11:41 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Nobody needs air travel.
posted by colie at 11:41 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


if i signed up for twitter and started divulging all the exciting events of my day in 140-character snippets, how many of you would agree to follow me and hang there in suspense for my next tweet?

yeah, that's what i thought.


Would it be more exciting or intelligent than this comment? I might!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:42 AM on April 30 [9 favorites]


Instant Messaging, Vaccines and Air Travel are looking at you.

As are 5-blade razor blades and hand sanitizer.
posted by Melismata at 11:43 AM on April 30


The problem with the article is it seems to misunderstand the point of Twitter. Unlike MySpace, Friendster, or Facebook, which are all asynchronous forms of communication, to wit, you're talking to your friends who are talking to you. Twitter is asynchronous, in that, you're talking to anybody, and listening to anybody. But the article is all about how Ezra Klein doesn't reply/retweet/whatever, and just posts links. If there were a problem with Twitter (and I'm definitely not saying there isn't), that isn't it.
posted by General Malaise at 11:45 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


The list of things people actually *need* is quite short. It's also not particularly relevant to the future of Twitter.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:46 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


The folks on Twitter who are posting Funny/Deep/True/Absurd Shit, like @brendlewhat, @cat_beltane, @TriciaLockwood and @weedguy420boner to name but a few, make it worthwhile. At its best, as a medium, Twitter is real-time participatory dadaist shenanigans -- or maybe LARPing for clever shut-ins, I don't know -- as long as you're willing to stand outside the expected framework of marketer-consumer interaction.

Of course, I have no idea how you make money on that. Maybe FavStar knows.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:46 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


The statement wasn't "nobody needs Twitter" on it's own; I'm just saying it can easily die without a replacement. Twitter has a vocal fan base but it still hasn't taken the hold vaccines and air travel have.
posted by deathmaven at 11:48 AM on April 30


That's the thing, the money making schemes are always so damn banal: ads, mobile ads, targeted ads, and selling data (to even better target ads). And it's not just Twitter obviously, to a large extent Google, Facebook, etc. remain platforms for selling ads.

That's the model: sell equity for as long as you can (to investors, then other investors, then the public), sell ads as many ways as you can. It's pretty depressing.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:53 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


I love twitter. When friends email, text, facebook message or GOD FORBID phone me instead of tweeting me, I always wonder why? Even my mom tweets me instead of calling.

But the native twitter interface is terrible. I haven't used it in years. And I'll never go back, especially now that you have to cut and paste to edit retweets or even get the right @name in them.

Also, twitter is the best news source for my job, since major media outlets do a lousy job with it, but all the social media managers at nonprofits in my area are right on top of things.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:54 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Twitterdämmerung?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:54 AM on April 30 [11 favorites]


Twitter will never truly die until there's a viable replacement that isn't Facebook

"Twitter makes me like strangers, while Facebook makes me hate my friends."


(Or more specifically, someone I can't remember said that Twitter is strangers at their wittiest and Facebook is my friends at their most mundane, tedious, and ignorant.)
posted by straight at 11:54 AM on April 30 [36 favorites]


Man if you hate the ads business model, I suggest you don't look too closely at the history of journalism. Or radio and television entertainment.

One thing that's great about Google's ad product is they work hard to show relevant, non-offensive ads. Turns out showing a user an ad for a product they are researching to buy works better than an animated punch-the-monkey with sound effects. It's better for the advertiser and better for the consumer. If you're going to have ads, they might as well be efficient.
posted by Nelson at 11:56 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


I've never managed to get into a flow with Twitter. I am not really interested in a functionally non-interactive stream of other peoples' consciousness, and the interesting things (blog posts, articles, and so on) that people claim to be the selling point usually end up getting posted somewhere superior, like /r/programming or MetaFilter.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:56 AM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Twitter seems to basically do three different things quite well: One, very short form blogging--random bits of amusement. Fun, but not something people really need. Two, something that is basically a weird sort of public IMing, where people have conversations with each other where everybody can hear them, so I guess one could compare that to a coffee house sort of atmosphere. But the third, the one that I think has always kind of smelled like doom, is that it lets people pretend they actually know celebrities, because you can totally talk to them even if they don't talk back. And maybe once somebody actually talks back and this validates your whole existence! This attracts a lot of people, but the celebrities themselves are basically just using it as #2. So Twitter is essentially the restaurant where people know that famous people go sometimes, and once someone famous said hi. It might be a good restaurant to hang out at, but an awful lot of its business is basically just celebrity proximity--some celebrities more major than others.

In the absence of some contractual guarantee that the famous and infamous will prefer it forever and be able to endlessly generate attractive new content, I totally believe there are people who would still enjoy the service, but I don't think it's going to be able to be sustainably profitable under any money-making scheme.
posted by Sequence at 11:56 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


> That's the model: sell equity for as long as you can (to investors, then other investors, then the public), sell ads as many ways as you can. It's pretty depressing.

I'd gladly pay a flat fee to not have ads or selling of (crappy) data for some of these services. I'm sure Strava is on the way to screwing their users (paying or otherwise), but right now for $50 a year I don't have to deal with fake accounts, fake follower, and ads.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 11:57 AM on April 30


The "twitter is dying" stuff is hogwash, but I think part of what's going on is that the more people use the service over time, the more they shift away from a mindset of attracting outside audiences, and move more toward interacting with solidified communities and friend circles (not necessarily IRL friends). That's not a "bad" thing, it just means people are maturing and figuring out the lay of the land, and are more interested in cool/funny/interesting conversations than "look at me" antics. I have no idea how to monetize that, but I suspect that has to do with the slight slowdown.
posted by naju at 11:57 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


The problem with the Internet is that it was built on a fantasy of free, free, free!

I'm not sure it's so much a "fantasy" as it is more that the full potential of the internet is hobbled by needing to fit into a capitalist framework. (Also, what Melismata said.)

Anyways, yeah, Twitter was more fun before people figured out how to 'game' it (this is also true of Survivor and many other things) and were just using it to broadcast their unfettered thoughts and ideas to the world. I liked hearing little disjointed bits of the uncensored inner monologues of people I've never met in real life (both of the famous and not-so-famous varieties). There's still some of that but the signal-to-noise gets worse every day as the PR guys have more time to figure things out.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:58 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I love twitter and think it's one of the very best things to come out of Silicon Valley. Early on, I wished it were a "protocol", loosely meaning like SMS or HTTP, that people could create apps/sites/etc. around but that anyone could join/create an account to use. You would lose the centralization of stuff like verified profiles and other stuff and it would be much messier, but it would remove the biggest problem-- making money.

Twitter is still the most vibrant part of the social media landscape, with Instagram close behind, but the problem it has is not making enough money. As a public company, it will now be very hard for them not to ruin it, because the investors are going to start being more and more vocal about monetizing the users they already have.
posted by cell divide at 12:00 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Who needs the Twitter-Mart?
I dooooooo.

posted by blue_beetle at 12:01 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Looks like that App.net business model is holding up well against the other platforms.
Bueller?
IRC?
posted by davemee at 12:09 PM on April 30


Thank god.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:09 PM on April 30


Twitter's in the news because it supports lazy journalism.

If anyone wants me I'll be in my room.
posted by petebest at 12:10 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I hope every time metafilter has a discussion about twitter in the future, the word "hand sanitizer" shows up.
posted by jscott at 12:10 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Mine is a love/hate relationship with Twitter.

Dislike in that:

- There are some people it's useful to follow, as they tweet out useful things related to my work. But, at the same time, I cannot stand, and sometimes react negatively, to, certain other topics and opinions they'll tweet out. But, that's me arguably being selfish as they aren't my hired news sources.

- Twitter 'outraged' mobs. People who cruise the media looking for things to be outraged about, then tweeting them. Most of the time I agree with their sense of injustice, just when it's a relentless stream of them ... is there such a thing as outrage fatigue?

- (Overlapping with the previous) Librarian drama (though now there's a large Facebook Group where much of that is vented, there's noticeably less on Twitter).

- Election time, it's just... no.

- Worst media to have an argument; the 140 char limit destroys nuance, and forces people to use not the best vocabulary.

Love in that:

- Met my fiancee (and several relationships before) through Twitter.

- Most of my good and genuine friends are people I've met on or through Twitter in some way over the last six years.

- Local weather alerts, especially when in a basement being terrified of what's happening up above in Tornado-world.

- With a hashtag, nothing comes close to it as a communication amplifier for use before or during a conference or event.

- For certain specific events, it's also a great back channel or companion piece. Can't imagine now watching Eurovision without Twitter.

- Cats.

- Librarian cats.
posted by Wordshore at 12:12 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


https://twitter.com/handsanitizer

One tweet, 5 years ago: "fretting". Somehow appropriate.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:13 PM on April 30


greg nog, do you want to hear how i got the cat into the scanner, or not?
posted by bruce at 12:18 PM on April 30


Foosnark...I reinvigorated my personal LJ by joining active communities and making new friends, and suddenly the ol' F-list is full of updates again. I know some people who quit LJ when they married - it's much like real life - people come and go out of it.
posted by Calzephyr at 12:18 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


if i signed up for twitter and started divulging all the exciting events of my day in 140-character snippets, how many of you would agree to follow me and hang there in suspense for my next tweet?

Actually...

Twitter works best if you follow a lot of different, interesting people, so that there's always something funny being said or interesting being linked whenever you take a peek at it. It's also one of the few places on the internet where you can have roughly centralised, Usenet like discussions; it therefore really comes into its own when you got enough people following a specific news or media event and commenting on it.

And yes, it's also great to get some more mundane shit off your chest, minor irritations or successes you want to share when there's nobody to share it with you nearby.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:19 PM on April 30 [8 favorites]


I have been on Twitter since 2007 and use it a ton, but the thing that always felt off is that the breaking news aspect of Twitter has never been the case for me. I still seem to get all major breaking news via traditional media. Which frankly I'm grateful for because whenever I've gone onto Twitter after hearing some news, it's just endless streams of FUD.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:22 PM on April 30


Original hashtag megaphone channel enabler IRC is still around a generation later. And Usenet two generations later. Twitter will persist.
posted by meehawl at 12:24 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


As overstated as the eulogy was, I did think it was interesting to consider how Twitter has started to turn into what Facebook was right before everyone's parents signed up. That said, the bit about how 2012 Twitter was different than 2011 Twitter was deeply painful to read.
posted by Copronymus at 12:24 PM on April 30


*chuckle* Have you seen Usenet lately? It's nothing but spam.
posted by Melismata at 12:25 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Usenet and IRC are decentralized services. Twitter has to stay viable as a company to keep Twitter's services running, as far as I can tell.
posted by Sequence at 12:25 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I super like Twitter; it's succinct which I appreciated as a reader if not a writer and it keeps me informed about really big stuff like engagements, important stuff like major news events, and helps give me little amusing glances into the lives and thoughts of people I follow. It's also helped me feel closer/more friendly with some MeFites who I like but don't actually know, which I appreciate.

My main problem with Twitter, really, is that when I follow someone I feel like we are friends even if we aren't so I end up doing kind of odd things like the time I, without thinking, told Aubrey Plaza she could sleep on our couch when Parks and Rec was filming in DC. She never wrote back.

I also have trouble separating reality from fiction.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:28 PM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Not everybody has the same Twitter--I think it's invaluable as the collective unconscious of the world and as a resource to articles I might not find otherwise. Plus there are pictures of cute animals from time to time. I suppose people could use app.net, which I was only reminded of when they tried to charge an inactive card of mine.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:29 PM on April 30


There's some information on Twitter investors and revenue sources over on the Wikipedia. I'm assuming those venture capitalists and investors want or need some kind of return and profit, at some point? Or waiting to sell out to AppleGooFaceZon?
posted by Wordshore at 12:29 PM on April 30


Basically from what I can tell (and we just had a thread on it), the current state of the SF/Tech startup scene is banking on The Larger Fool to keep swooping in and buying your WhatsApps and such and the Larger Fool has always been AppleGooFaceZon. However, we're reaching a point where people are sort of realizing, hey wait, just because there's some cool technology doesn't mean we can actually make money from it somehow. You may know this flash of insight from such crashes as The Last Time The Tech Bubble Popped. So there are fewer and fewer Larger Fools and now people are starting to get nervous the music stopped and are scrambling for chairs.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:40 PM on April 30 [8 favorites]


I don't need facebook-like profiles (I rarely look at profiles anyway).

What I need is a a client that properly threads tweets and the many replies that branch off of them.
Trying to follow a multi-user conversation in twitter is an exercise in frustration when it gets more than a couple of participants.
posted by madajb at 12:48 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I think the quality of the twitter experience depends highly on how well you curate an interesting list of people to follow. It isn't hard to do but it isn't immediately intuitive. The secret sauce of twitter is that it is rapidly fun and easy to engage others. I happen to find the 140 character limit to be useful for constraining my thoughts.

So I have plenty of praise for the platform but I wouldn't want to be responsible for making money with it. Almost anything they do will poison the well. I like to think that there must be some high value information they have, given that news often breaks first on twitter about events. Certainly there are some entities that would pay for some form of alert notices from the data set. This is about the only non-destructive revenue idea I can conceive.
posted by dgran at 12:49 PM on April 30


Twitter works best if you follow a lot of different, interesting people, so that there's always something funny being said or interesting being linked whenever you take a peek at it.

In theory. But. I follow about 350 people - I can't keep up with all of them. I mean, it's impossible, unless I spend my life on Twitter, perusing every single utterance - and that's only 350 people, a miniscule number to follow.

Twitter is fantastic for the news/PR business, and that's where I've found it most valuable - a way to blast headlines and breaking news. A way for celebrities to issue a statement without having to call a press conference. A way for brands to communicate directly with customers. But the idea of deep thoughts in 140 characters or less always seemed glib at best.
posted by kgasmart at 12:53 PM on April 30


I'm not anti-social in not using Facebook or Twitter, I'm an ahead of the curve trend setter.
posted by Justinian at 12:56 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]




I don't think it's Twitter's fault that Ezra Klein doesn't hang out as much on twitter anymore, I'm pretty sure that's just what happens when you leave your job to start your own business/media venture/whatever that takes up all your free time while you get it off the ground.

I'm in the follow everybody that I find interesting/funny/etc camp, and use the lists feature to trim the herd to a manageable, slower feed on a topic such as sports or news when I want (This is invaluable for hockey playoff info for example). Or I can just idly browse the full stream when I'm waiting for a friend outside a restaurant for example.

The new profile pages are surely about being less intimidating to new users, since the old guard rarely looks at it, like ever.
posted by TwoWordReview at 12:58 PM on April 30


From what I recall, the exodus from LiveJournal didn't do much happen because of Facebook, but because the service was sold to the Russians, and they really couldn't care about their non-Russian users. And then it was pretty much desired when Putin decided he didn't like dissidents using media he didn't control.

Nowadays LiveJournal interfaces are clunky and badly maintained, and let's not even talk about it's mobile app. But it's still the home if some people I like hearing from, like say, James Nicoll, and it does things that Twitter, Facebook or G+ don't do. Someday there will be a service to truly replace LiveJournal, with decent following and editing options. Someday. But for now, winter is here.
posted by happyroach at 1:02 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Whatever happened to Dreamwidth? I had such high hopes for them but it never seemed to work out. I miss LJ, but yeah. Suddenly there was a lot of Cyrillic spam and the whole service turned into ONTD and Russians. So I guess there are worse fates than just people moving on.
posted by Sequence at 1:05 PM on April 30


DW is still chugging along. Most of the people I know who do LJ also do DW and crosspost. I still use mine for logging my bucket list and a few other things like that.

I had to can my original twitter finally (I know nothing is ever truly deleted on the internet, but it turned out to be better to delete) but now I've gotten back to it and I'm pretty happy with the mix of local orgs (what to do tonight), humor accounts (Chaucer Doth Tweet), and actual people (RL friends/gamers/Mefites) on my stream. But thank goodness for clients with hashtag muting or I'd quit it in a minute.
posted by immlass at 1:09 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Twitter is a really amazing resource for amateur niche bloggers. Not only do a ton of people use it like an RSS feed replacement so they're notified when a site they like updates, but also it's invaluable for meeting other people in your niche.

Unlike the author of this article I don't think Twitter is dying, but if it does it will definitely be a huge blow to small blogs and websites.
posted by jess at 1:17 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Chaucer Doth Tweet is worth the price of admission!
posted by Mister_A at 1:17 PM on April 30


Trying to follow a multi-user conversation in twitter is an exercise in frustration when it gets more than a couple of participants.


I agree with this statement but also can't help but laugh seeing it on MetaFilter.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:18 PM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Journalists : "journalism twitter's no fun anymore"
posted by stratastar at 1:19 PM on April 30


Also it's funny but I follow more RL friends on FB and more internet pals on Twitter. A few have made the grade for both. But I don't have the energy or inclination to be active on both at the same time. I think I get active on Twitter when I'm tired of real people and vice versa with FB. That probably explains the weird dichotomy–I'm doing it on purpose, albeit subconsciously. Thanks for helping me figure that out, MetaFilter!
posted by Mister_A at 1:19 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Has Netcraft confirmed?
posted by entropicamericana at 1:23 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


happyroach: I actually think it started with the initial sale to Six Apart--which was pretty much an aquihire. Six Apart wanted to make their blogging platform, Vox, which has some of the privacy features of LiveJournal, but rejiggered with a better Web 2.0 interface. The only reason LiveJournal was around to be sold to the Russian company is because it actually made some money and thus wasn't as convenient to discontinue, unlike pretty much every single other startup they purchased. Of course, nowadays Six Apart doesn't really exist anymore--it merged with Video Egg to become Say Media.

Six Apart did make some improvements to the platform, but they also made a lot of ham handed decisions that drove some of the power users away, and they didn't listen to the staff on the ground to some of them. So by the time they sold it to SUP (the Russian company), the English side of the service was already fairly damaged--and now the main part of it centers around ONTD, with the rest of everybody pretty much being just an appendage.

Dreamwidth is still around and chugging and I love it but there's no denying it's an internet backwater. We just don't have the same resources that fast growing VC funded startups to do snazz everything up to modern standards, though we *are* working on it. And it's also hard to get people to move over wholesale from LiveJournal, especially if the people who have moved end up being annoying evangelists about it, which happened a lot. On the plus side, I can use Dreamwidth and feel like part of a community instead of a commodity (much like Metafilter!), so I stick with it.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:23 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Interesting because my 17-yr-old daughter and her friends have taken to Twitter recently pronouncing Facebook is for old people. I keep reminding her that her mother and I have had twitter accounts for years. The problem is that we haven't really used Twitter in years. Instagram seems to be where the action is happening these days but that could be because I happen to be a photographer and everyone I know is also a photographer. Instagram is engaging in a way Twitter never was for me. Instagram is also engaging for my daughter and her friends and it's common platform where I can connect with her as well.

With that said - Snapchat is the thing that everyone under 25 is using and as the father of said teenager it scares the HELL out of me. When she first explained to me what it was I didn't get it. Why would someone want to take a photo that would disappear in 5 secs? It's the first time I've had the experience of knowing I looked like an old clueless dumb-ass.
posted by photoslob at 1:25 PM on April 30


Twitter should be a utility like email. Imagine if email had to turn a profit 10 years after it was invented.
posted by grubby at 1:32 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I agree with this statement but also can't help but laugh seeing it on MetaFilter.

MetaFilter is pretty contained. There's a clear stream from top to bottom of the comments, and usually, when a discussion emerges, people helpfully quote each other to make it clear to whom they're responding.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:32 PM on April 30


Oh god, my husband signed up for Snapchat because he was curious and encouraged me to sign up too. A) We've never used it once, and B) we're a little scared to.


/also olds
posted by Kitteh at 1:33 PM on April 30


Facebook's charging users for something that should be standard is starting to piss people off, too. (The charity I work with has had several discussions as we've basically had to pay Facebook money in order to reach the people who already follow us, money that we'd rather spend elsewhere.) I suspect as they squeeze more tightly, more and more people will wander off to other venues.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:35 PM on April 30


Snapchat is so much more innocuous, fun, spontaneous, and weird... You can use it to make tiny music videos or movies, you can use it to vent to your friends, you can use it for the same sorts of ephemeral conversations or thoughts without pushing everything through the ego-filter of twitter or instagram.

So don't be scared... of the boobs and peni.
posted by stratastar at 1:38 PM on April 30


Snapchat is great for goofy stuff. A friend and I used it to make faces at each other in a war spanning months. The fact that it's so ephemeral is what makes it lovely: Here's me wearing this ridiculously embarrassing hat or singing you Total Eclipse of the Heart and then, poof, it never happened, you have no proof. (Unless you get one of the legion of apps that make it possible to save Snapchat stuff but that's being a jerk).

I actually made a separate snapchat for my Kitchenaid mixer because one of my friends wanted pictures and she apparently gave it out to a ton of people, so every now and then hundreds of people watch short clips of me mixing stuff because I don't know.

I think it helps to have a surreal sense of humor.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:42 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I agree with this statement but also can't help but laugh seeing it on MetaFilter.


I have no problem following conversations on Mefi; Twitter not so much. I have no idea how to figure out who's responding to what on Twitter.
posted by octothorpe at 1:43 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


The problem with the Internet is that it was built on a fantasy of free, free, free!

The problem with libraries and national parks is that they were built on a fantasy of free, free, free!
posted by straight at 1:44 PM on April 30 [11 favorites]


Octothorpe: if you click on a message that is a reply within a conversation chain, the previous few messages in the conversation expand in chronological order. If there are more than a few, there is a link you can click which will open the original tweet and all of its replies in chronological order in a new window.
posted by erlking at 1:45 PM on April 30


Having read that Atlantic article that's the main hook here, it seems to conclude Twitter is dying because self promoting chancers like Ezra fscking Klein are leaving it or just using it to self promote. That's not a problem with Twitter, that's a problem with Klein.

It's also telling that it's supposedly dying because self important white men have no use for it anymore, when it's still one of the best ways for people of colour, women et all to get attention and have a conversation without being shouted down by SIWM. That seems to happen a lot with internet technologies.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:45 PM on April 30 [8 favorites]


I miss LJ, but yeah. Suddenly there was a lot of Cyrillic spam and the whole service turned into ONTD and Russians.

The only cyrillic I see is on the Marxism group journal I'm too lazy to unsubscribe to. Livejournal actually still is an important niche in online science fiction fandom, with quite a few Usenet old fharts having ended up there and being happy to stay there: James Nicoll, Nick Mamatas, Seanan McGuire, Genevieve Valentine undsoweiter.

It's about as dated as Metafilter is, it's just that unlike MeFi, LJ for a while was the hot new thing on the internets and never became quite as mainstream as was promised.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:53 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I don't know about in terms of in communities, MartinWisse--I was getting, at the time I finally dropped my last account (yay fandom stuff), probably 5-10 spam comments a day, all of them presumably in Russian, and it felt like the alternatives were either to lock everything down to friends when increasingly my friends weren't actually there, or just give up, and I kind of ended up with the latter. At least one friend-of-a-friend is clearly still there, to judge from that list, which means that some people I know might still be, but Tumblr is kind of where most of the folks I socialize with landed, so that's where I hang out now, this aside. Even though the interface is ridiculous.
posted by Sequence at 1:58 PM on April 30


It's also telling that it's supposedly dying because self important white men have no use for it anymore, when it's still one of the best ways for people of colour, women et all to get attention and have a conversation without being shouted down by SIWM. That seems to happen a lot with internet technologies.

Lot of Twitter-ers of color have been pointing this out:

@thetrudz "Twitter is dead." = "Hey White ppl, please dislike this space. And stop hanging out with Black Twitter. Let's crash this company!" LOL.

@AngryBlackLady Just read that dumb "there goes the neighborhood" article in The Atlantic on the death of Twitter, and laughed and laughed.

@Karnythia Mind you, black people overindex on Twitter so I suspect our experience on Twitter is very different from some others.

‏@Karnythia I don't think #BlackTwitter is necessarily going to appeal to white hipsters or techies or whatever. But it doesn't have to.

posted by emjaybee at 2:02 PM on April 30 [8 favorites]


Pssst. Black twitter is the best.
posted by stratastar at 2:10 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Meta to the Atlantic article (h/t Ian Bogost).
posted by Wordshore at 2:16 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Argh, I cannot find the original tweet but another Twitterer of color called it "white flight." I LOL'd.
posted by Kitteh at 2:24 PM on April 30 [9 favorites]


Gosh. Found this tweet and this one in relation to the Atlantic article. Also, "white flight" used in relation to a few other articles, such as "In Defense of Twitter Feminism". Interesting perspectives and language.
posted by Wordshore at 2:35 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Yeah, LJ had an unfortunate comment spam problem for a while there :/ IIRC, there was also some censoring based on keywords, and a lot of fandom or fic journals were targeted. I believe that's why Dreamwidth started. Hoo, 2008 seems positively forever ago!
posted by Calzephyr at 2:38 PM on April 30


The virtual world has really hit the big time when its communities are being declared "over" because the right shade of people aren't populating them.

(Of course, gay men in my fair home city were doing this with hook-up websites 10 years ago; we've always got to be on the cutting edge of trends. even the racist ones.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:45 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Look, Twitter will have to survive so long as there is Birds Rights Activist.

Contest: who is best at me? I win.
posted by emjaybee at 2:47 PM on April 30 [15 favorites]


It's kind of weird to cast analyses of Twitter's business model as some sort of racism. I mean, I understand where people are coming from, but Twitter is not a public service or an open protocol; it's a company, and companies have to make profit. I get that marginalized groups use it to communicate, and I get that it's played a major role in civil resistance and important movements worldwide, but neither of those facts change the other fact that if they can't make money they will just close the thing. That's why open protocols are important: anyone with enough money to run a server out of their closet can be a host and make a service available, as long as it's open. Email and Usenet are the best examples, although atrocious web forums have cannibalized the rightful market for Usenet.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:54 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I use Twitter by following a bunch of people, and checking my notifications on my phone when 3 or more people I follow retweet the same thing.

New tweets show up in my feed every minute. If I wanted to really see what's going on in the world of my twitter feed, I'd have to make some lists. I wish I could pay someone to make good lists for me. I would pay up to ten dollars for that service, for realz.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:33 PM on April 30


Snapchat is so much more innocuous, fun, spontaneous, and weird...

This is also why I'm addicted to Vine. And have learned that almost any group of random bored teenagers anywhere in the world is funnier and more creative than the last two decades of SNL.
posted by fshgrl at 3:38 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I've been saying that for two decades (since I was a funny, creative teenager).
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:49 PM on April 30


Early on, I wished it were a "protocol", loosely meaning like SMS or HTTP, that people could create apps/sites/etc. around but that anyone could join/create an account to use.

That would be the one change which would actually make me interested in trying it out.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:53 PM on April 30


And have learned that almost any group of random bored teenagers anywhere in the world is funnier and more creative than the last two decades of SNL.

haha, I think it's more like "there exist some group of random bored teenagers somewhere in the world funnier and more creative than the last two decades of SNL." But, yeah.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 4:16 PM on April 30


Look, Twitter will have to survive so long as there is Birds Rights Activist.

Officially my new favorite twitter. Whoever is running that account has that bird dialect down to an art form.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:24 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Digital Inception.
posted by Wordshore at 4:25 PM on April 30


This time its different.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 5:31 PM on April 30


"The thing is: Its users are less active than they once were. Twitter says these changes reflect a more streamlined experience, but we have a different theory: Twitter is entering its twilight."

Exactly correct. This is exactly what happened to LiveJournal, as the best measure of an online community's health isn't revenue, total members, or total views... but rather, the activity level of its users.

And the thing is, people will add more friends, follow more feeds, read more content, etc. only to find that content less interesting and less important to them, as the people they really want to hear from not only start to post less frequently, but also write less openly about their lives. Merely digesting more content doesn't help, because it's not really what they want... and so they'll turn to the next new thing, or maybe even move more of their life offline. At a certain point, they start dropping out, and the "stickiness", or amount of time per person spent on the site, drops noticeably, causing decreased ad views per member, for example. People who used to post a dozen times a day start to post twice a week about generally less interesting stuff. There's a very real, personal value to people when their friends feel able to really be open about their lives... but the problem is, these systems are *too* open, and people get wise, clam up, start using these systems more for self-promotion than sharing, revelation, and insight.

More and more of the new users tend to be from overseas, in places that aren't as relevant to the original users. Eventually, these sites might start to become more relevant to people in the younger overseas communities than they are for people in the US. This, of course, effects every aspect of their business, ads and ad revenue, etc. while the next generation doesn't come along for the ride, and views it as something that older people use. Too public, too open... your mother has an account there, etc.

Once LiveJournal started tracking these metrics and noticed the site was shrinking from the perspective of the average user, they subsequently implemented code to nag their users to post regularly, prompting them to answer generic questions in order to keep them active... but that only works to a point. People can tell when their friends are just phoning it in. Expect some similar features from Twitter, Facebook, etc. as they start to experience the pain.
posted by markkraft at 6:12 PM on April 30 [7 favorites]


LANGUAGE IS A CONSTANTLY EVOLVING CREATURE BUT YOU CALL THIS CLEAN?

IF YOU ARE ATTEMPTING A CUTTING SATIRE OF ADOLESCENT BEHAVIOR THEN YOU ARE BEING HILARIOUS RIGHT NOW

THE HEART WANTS WHAT IT IS INDOCTRINATED BY SOCIETY TO WANT
-Jenny Holzer, Mom
posted by straight at 6:23 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Historically, manufacturers -- of cars, of clothes, of entertainment -- have started off by manufacturing something profitable, and then milking that profit dry to plan their next successful thing. That thing is an evolution, an iteration, of the thing they made before, with the occasional dramatic advance to stay relevant.

This Facebook, this Twitter, this anything online, is manufactured and evolved, iterated...but sooner or later, they run out of steam, because there's no dramatic advance to stay relevant. By the time one of these companies knows they're irrelevant, it is too late to begin investing (ever-dwindling) funds into the next great thing.

Occasionally the company reinvents itself -- see Apple -- but there's typically a hardware component, some kind of "there" there, something that requires a significant enough investment that nobody can advance like you can, because nobody else has the long-term infrastructure investment.

Take a look at Google. Why are they still relevant? They're chasing everything, throwing money at the next great thing. Is Facebook making self-driving cars? And hey, there's that hardware component again...which keeps them relevant even when their software projects fail (Google+ et al.)

So yeah, of course Twitter is jumping the shark. It's rare for a company in this industry -- and it is an industry -- to persist unless they consistently fund the next new thing rather than focusing exclusively on incremental improvements, and unless some of those next new things involve epic startup costs that keep others out of that area if you get there first (or best.)
posted by davejay at 6:40 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


More and more of the new users tend to be from overseas, in places that aren't as relevant to the original users. Eventually, these sites might start to become more relevant to people in the younger overseas communities than they are for people in the US. This, of course, effects every aspect of their business, ads and ad revenue, etc.

This is spot on from my (non-first-world) experience. Twitter is huge out here in India among the urban population, across multiple age-group demographics, and is being used in a wide range of contexts, from electioneering (we have a big-ass election going on) to simply moaning about cricket (a big-ass cricket tournament is on too).

I definitely agree that the changing demographics of Twitter's user base is going to place more scrutiny on their advertisement & monetization models, but to say Twitter is in its twilight (as the article asserts) sounds absurd to me, as over here it seems to be on a strong upward trajectory right now.
posted by all the versus at 6:56 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Your situation in India sounds very much like LiveJournal's continued relevance in Russia, all the versus. LJ became a major place for reporters and politicians in Russia to interact with the public, which is a position of social relevance that it never reached in the US.

In LJ's case, it actually led SixApart, the old owners of the site, to sell it to a Russian company... but I suspect what we will see is that Twitter will work with advertisers from around the world to customize the user experience.

Twitter still has a long, long afterlife, in huge, growing international markets... but that doesn't mean that its relevance in the US isn't going downhill.
posted by markkraft at 7:11 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


compared to Facebook I want to MARRY Twitter.

Oh, are we playing that game? OK. Shag Facebook, marry Twitter, throw tumblr off a cliff. (No wait, I'm at the point I'd dump FB and shag Instagram.)

For me, FB is a family dinner. twitter is hanging out with the gang Friday night.

twitter is my playground. I interact with writers/biz folks of interest on both platforms, but more twitter. And I sort of show off my smartypants satire there. But considering my twitter's public, I should probably censor myself to a greater degree. At least until when/ if I retire. :P (Speaking of which, I wish social media had been around earlier when I was first breaking into my various businesses.)

Oh, and twitter better not be over, I just got my first hate-tweet from a stranger last night. (And tried to shrug it off and retweet like the cool comedians do.)
posted by NorthernLite at 7:21 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Twitter is not over and it won't be over in the near future. Sure, someday twitter will be over. But isn't the same true for everything?

These thinkpieces on the "twilight" of twitter are pretty blinkered, insular, and ridiculous - and twitter only shares one of those qualities, in my experience.
posted by erlking at 7:31 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Twitter still has a long, long afterlife, in huge, growing international markets... but that doesn't mean that its relevance in the US isn't going downhill.

Sure. The concern is if the latter has an adverse effect on the former -- if any financial decline from increasing inactivity among the US users (or some related cause, like the 'social-media bubble' bursting) spills outward and messes up the service in places where it is growing.
posted by all the versus at 8:30 PM on April 30


"The actor Kate Hardie, who worked with Hoskins on Mona Lisa, took to Twitter to pay her respects."
yuck"

I have to second this because I'd rather read someone's actual writing of more than a paragraph missing and mourning someone than another roundup article of famous people's tweets that all say "we'll miss u bob rip." And again, lazy journalism.

When PSH died, it was somehow comforting to read everyone sharing memories of him, articles on/interviews with him, and clips from his better moments. It was great, really.


Yeah, but wouldn't it be nice to do that in more than one sentence?

"I am not really interested in a functionally non-interactive stream of other peoples' consciousness, and the interesting things (blog posts, articles, and so on) that people claim to be the selling point usually end up getting posted somewhere superior, like /r/programming or MetaFilter."


I'll spare y'all my usual ranting on the topic and just point to this as to why I just can't like social media, but especially this limited one, in particular. I just want to read more than one sentence at a time, in the proper order. Am I so wrong to feel that way? I guess so.

I'd love to see Twitter go, but I fear that what will replace it will be even worse. Perhaps humans will lose the ability to even write one sentence and will just post individual letters, or made up scribbled symbols a la the artist formerly known as Prince, or they'll just post videos of themselves peeing into socks. And then we'll all descend into idiocracy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:45 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Sequence: "Twitter has to stay viable as a company to keep Twitter's services running, as far as I can tell."

It's unlikely Twitter as a centralised service will go away. It's just too valuable and relatively low bandwidth to operate. But even if it did - how long before one or more replacement networks using descendents of its protocol would emerge and rapidly, convergently evolve into Twitter 2.0? It apparently fills a need and managed to survive its early days of persistent fail whales and lacking what are now considered basic features added by users, such as hashtags.
posted by meehawl at 8:52 PM on April 30


I'd love to see Twitter go, but I fear that what will replace it will be even worse. Perhaps humans will lose the ability to even write one sentence and will just post individual letters, or made up scribbled symbols a la the artist formerly known as Prince, or they'll just post videos of themselves peeing into socks. And then we'll all descend into idiocracy.

You don't have to like twitter, but clearly plenty of quite intelligent people do like it, and find something of value in it (even perhaps intellectually and creatively stimulating value). Twitter is like any other medium; it's only as good or as bad as the person using it. Haikus are very short too; are they an inherently idiotic form?
posted by erlking at 9:01 PM on April 30 [6 favorites]


/It's unlikely Twitter as a centralised service will go away. It's just too valuable and relatively low bandwidth to operate.

Twitter is HUGE with the various government agencies that do public safety. It's an amazingly great way to get the word out about tsunamis, tornados etc and to get public feedback on events. If it ever folds up shop the government might even make something to replace it. People around here only turn on the weather radio if the towers go down.

My entire Twitter feed is things like Bad Taxidermy and government agencies, pretty much.
posted by fshgrl at 10:25 PM on April 30


If it's too concise, you're too old.
posted by univac at 12:23 AM on May 1


My only problem with Live Journal is that I don't read / speak Russian.
posted by adamvasco at 12:50 AM on May 1


straight: "LANGUAGE IS A CONSTANTLY EVOLVING CREATURE BUT YOU CALL THIS CLEAN?

IF YOU ARE ATTEMPTING A CUTTING SATIRE OF ADOLESCENT BEHAVIOR THEN YOU ARE BEING HILARIOUS RIGHT NOW

THE HEART WANTS WHAT IT IS INDOCTRINATED BY SOCIETY TO WANT
-Jenny Holzer, Mom
"

Thank you, I did not know Jenny Holzer was on Twitter.
posted by chavenet at 2:42 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I am being followed by both Anne Sexton and Walt Whitman. I find that slightly unnerving.
posted by newdaddy at 3:17 AM on May 1


My proudest Twitter moments have stemmed from having a few Doctor Who writers past and present follow me on it, weirdly because I occasionally tweet about my Annual Birthday Rewatching of Contemporary Doctor Who.

/terrible person
posted by Kitteh at 4:21 AM on May 1


Clearly just my own anecdata, but I haven't seen any evidence of Twitter use declining in the circles that I move in. Still lots of people posting regularly, trolling, flame wars, outrage (confected and otherwise) — all the good stuff.

I liked the idea of App.Net, and paid for it to support the idea (and am still paying, because I forgot to stop), but it never got Twitter's momentum. As a Twitter clone, it was pretty neat. But Twitter isn't the platform, it's the people, and the people didn't come to App.Net (or they did, but didn't stay).

My own Twitter posting has decreased significantly, mostly because I don't want to get sacked for tweeting things related to my job (which is a significant proportion of what I used to tweet about). But I still have plenty of people I consider friends (and not "Friends" in the Facebook sense) that I first met on Twitter that I still engage with, which makes it worthwhile to me.
posted by damonism at 4:53 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Twitter is the most fun I've ever had on the Internet. Ignore the Twitter homepage and run an app like TweetDeck. I can't imagine not having it all day long.

PS, I'm 45.
posted by Legomancer at 6:07 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


If it's too concise, you're too old.

Or everyone else's attention span has shrunk too much. Which is, by the way, one reason the big banks/bad actors have been able to get away with so much - tl;dr
posted by kgasmart at 6:52 AM on May 1


What's Vin Diesel got to do with this?
posted by Mister_A at 7:12 AM on May 1


I suspect as they squeeze more tightly, more and more people will wander off to other venues.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit


Are you saying the more FB tightens its grip the more star systems will slip from its fingers? Cause we all know how that ends.
posted by Carillon at 7:55 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Or everyone else's attention span has shrunk too much. Which is, by the way, one reason the big banks/bad actors have been able to get away with so much - tl;dr

Just had a wonderful conversation on twitter recently with a friend - a friend who I only know through twitter, actually. He's reading Middlemarch, one of my favourite novels, for the first time (having completed Moby Dick prior to this). He's at the Rome section and was just marvelling at how Eliot is absolutely on fire. That's one of my favourite parts as well. So we tweeted about it.

Middlemarch is a 900 page Victorian novel.

There is space for short things and long things in the world. Brevity is not a poison.
posted by erlking at 8:30 AM on May 1 [10 favorites]


There is space for short things and long things in the world.

This is part of why Twitter is so good, because actually it is both very short and very long at the same time. Given that it's all searchable and crunchable and feedable and instantly available to everyone everywhere, an individual message is short but the overall text of the thing never really ends... it is structureless and decentred and in fact probably the most radical piece of tech adoption in recent years... totally unlike the dull-as-hell facebook, which may indeed be why Twitter will have to die because of $.
posted by colie at 10:26 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


DW is still chugging along. Most of the people I know who do LJ also do DW and crosspost. I still use mine for logging my bucket list and a few other things like that.


I still have an account there (with a linked LJ). I went back to trying to blog there last year, but ran out of steam a few posts into it due to there being next to no audience remaining; one or two friends replied, but no discussions got started, and nobody else posted anything. It felt like performing electroconvulsive therapy on a corpse.

Mind you, Dreamwidth seems slightly less than vital in itself.
I suspect a big part of the problem is LJ/DW's reliance on a creaking, 1990s-vintage Perl codebase. For a while I lurked on the DW announcement feed (which filled up most of my Friends page; sad but true). Most of it was an endless Augean stables of bug-fixing and code tours; I got the impression that the tech debt is up to Haitian levels, leaving no room for actually modernising the feature set, which is why there is no modern (REST/JSON/OAuth) API (and thus no mobile apps to speak of), to say nothing of other nice-to-haves, like better media sharing, ways of sharing private posts with people without getting them to sign up for a DW account, &c. It'd probably be better to rewrite the whole thing from scratch, port everything over and unplug the life support, letting the old codebase have its well-deserved eternal rest.
posted by acb at 10:34 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]



LiveJournal is more like hanging by a thread. It'll probably die completely in the next couple weeks, shut down by the Russians after they invade the Ukraine.


Do they still have gay/feminist/offensive-to-traditional-values communities on LJ? I'm guessing they'd be illegal under Russian law, but may be tolerated if they're in English, possibly because cracking down on what aging Goths in the Bay Area post isn't high on the list of priorities.
posted by acb at 10:45 AM on May 1


Twitter Is Not Dying: It’s on the cusp of getting much bigger.
One thing nice about that Atlantic article; it made its case so clearly and forcefully that it prompted a bunch of other pundits to weigh in on how they see Twitter.
posted by Nelson at 11:40 AM on May 1


I didn't "get" Twitter at first and just ignored it for a while (something a lot of people who dislike it might want to try out). I finally started paying attention because my dad was really into it and I wanted to see what the big deal is.*

Man, do I love Twitter. It's the only social media site/service/whatever I really enjoy. I follow a bunch of activists, filmmakers, film critics, film nerds, paleontologists, various other flavors of scientist, science communicators, comedians, a lot of MeFites, etc, etc, etc... So much fun. It's not a "news source" in the sense of actual journalism, but if there's something in the news I tend to hear about it first through Twitter.

It's baffling to me that it's popularly known as the "Here's what I ate for lunch today" site when I haven't seen anything like that in years. Facebook is more the place for that, to me.

*Twitter is the main way I converse with my dad now.
posted by brundlefly at 11:58 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]




Mind you, Dreamwidth seems slightly less than vital in itself.

It's all much slower than it was in the heyday of LJ, for sure. Most of the active journal users I know are roleplayers and they're mostly on insanejournal. But that's a totally different phenomenon.
posted by immlass at 3:43 PM on May 1


All y'all saying Twitter sucks, I refute you thus: darth is on Twitter.
posted by asterix at 5:22 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I didn't "get" Twitter at first

No one did, iirc. It took a few years to catch on.
posted by thelonius at 6:01 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I remember first hearing about Twitter in Michelle Slatalla's NYTs column. Some time later, Twitter became a phenomenon, and not in a way Slatalla or her experts anticipated.
posted by acrasis at 7:08 PM on May 1


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