Tuesday, November 8, 2016 [Tweets] [Favorites]

The Importance and Potential of Twitter

Ben Thompson (Hacker News):

And yet it is Twitter that has reaffirmed itself as the most powerful antidote to Facebook’s algorithm: misinformation certainly spreads via a tweet, but truth follows unusually quickly; thanks to the power of retweets and quoted tweets, both are far more inescapable than they are on Facebook.

[…]

To be clear, Twitter has a real abuse problem that it has been derelict in addressing, a decision that is costly in both human and business terms; there is real harm that comes from the ability to address anyone anonymously, including the suppression of viewpoints by de facto vigilantism. But I increasingly despair about the opposite extreme: the construction of cocoons where speech that intrudes on one’s world view with facts is suppressed for fear of what it does to the bottom line, resulting in an inert people incapable of finding common ground with anyone else.

This is why Twitter must be saved: the combination of network and format is irreplaceable, especially now that everyone knows it might not be a great business.

Austin Gardner-Smith (via Hacker News):

I’ve always been a big fan of Twitter as a platform. But like most people I’ve met who share that sentiment, I’m a bit disappointed by the grown-up it’s become.

[…]

These things happen. I’m not here to point out all the mistakes the management team has or has not made - these are not easy decisions to make and no one likes a Monday morning quarterback. But around 2010, when I was working on Pinyadda, I believed that Twitter was going to become something very different from what it looks like today. I thought it had a chance to become a protocol, of sorts.

Twitter created and controlled perhaps the most important new protocol since HTTP. What if it had embraced third-party developers and found a different business model than advertising?

5 Comments

"Twitter created and controlled perhaps the most important new protocol since HTTP. What if it had embraced third-party developers and found a different business model than advertising?"

But honestly, what differently business model could that possibly be? I'm genuinely stumped.

In a weird way, the best thing for Twtter would be for someone like Bezos to buy it like the WaPo, and run it as a public service. Likewise, we'd never have anything like Wikipedia without Jimmy Wales....

(And that Ben Thompson post was also pretty great on identifying what made Steve-o so special in the tech sector.)

@Chucky I don’t know. I seem to recall Thompson and maybe Dave Winer talking about this. Maybe Freemium? Would have given Twitter totally different incentives, and we would have ended up with a different product, maybe a better one.

"Maybe Freemium?"

Dunno. I'm not sure you can charge even a penny a month and not have a complete destruction of the network effect. The only think I could imagine them conceivably charging for in a freemium model is access to analytics, and I don't think that'd move the needle.

"Would have given Twitter totally different incentives, and we would have ended up with a different product, maybe a better one."

That's the thing. I think Twitter is currently close to a perfect product. Only problems are the inability to get a handle on the abuse clusterf*ck, and the axing of 3rd party access. But, I understand axing 3rd party access as an attempt to better monetize. (Of course, the lack of ability to make a profit, or convince VC's they'll ever make a profit is the other problem.)

In short, I'm not sure what they could do without making things worse. Hence why the only real solution I see is a Bezos / Wales solution.

But, it's obviously a complicated topic, and I don't claim to have seen all viable answers.

@Chucky For individuals, perhaps pay for verification, to follow more than a certain number of people, or for analytics or other advanced features. Or sell companies access to the firehose or realtime monitoring of data related to them. I think other opportunities would have naturally presented if they had focused more on the API and expanding tweet metadata/payloads. Seems like instead of trying to be a profitable business the VCs wanted them to become Facebook size, and then they failed at both. I definitely don’t understand it all, either, though. For example, I don’t understand how they have so many employees and yet the apps don’t seem to get much attention.

I would happily pay $25-50 annually to be excluded from Twitter advertising, including being tracked for advertising purposes. I know plenty of people who would likewise do so. Unfortunately, that group would not be large enough to offset even a tenth of the advertising revenue.

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