The Twitter enigma

I joined Twitter in early 2009, essentially because everyone else was doing it at the time. And I didn’t tweet for months, because I didn’t actually quite see the point. I was living in Moscow then, and one of my colleagues, who already had 2000 followers (and went on to become one of Russia’s star Twitter users) suggested that I should give it a go. And so, I started tweeting and researching the platform for users similarly interested in writing, blogging and basically trying to exploit 140 characters to their absolute fullest.

Years later, I tweet everyday, mostly sharing content I publish elsewhere — my blog(s), Instagram — or links I find interesting — to Youtube videos, articles, etc. And, once in a while, I actually publish original content — basically, a one-liner — which I had on my mind but didn’t think was ‘good enough’ for my Facebook profile. That is the extent of it: I’m well aware that I could do more with the product, but I don’t.

And here’s why: it’s very user-unfriendly. First, looking for content in the beginning. To be fair, I haven’t tried it in years, but my experience starting out was rather dry, with Twitter’s initial recommendations only remotely matching my interests and user search being painfully slow and uneasy. I can only hope that they have improved since, although I suspect much more could still be done, both in suggested content and overall user experience.

Second, looking for content you already have remains absurdly hard. I follow hundreds of people, but the feed is essentially unusable, as far as I am concerned. This is also an opinion I’ve had since the very beginning, but, as everyone was hastily jumping on the bandwagon then, I figured I was simply too demanding and/or did not fully understand the product’s essence. Years later, my opinion is all but confirmed and my initial frustration now appears to be shared by millions. Indeed, trying to follow what happens on your feed is only somewhat achieved through third party applications, which is the most reliable sign that your product is failing. Facebook has long refined algorithmic feed content — for many more users — so how come Twitter is only still trying its hands at it now?

Third, and this may be an overreach at this point, the overall experience still feels too narrow. Facebook has diversified to everything from pages, to events to marketplaces to… What has Twitter done in the meantime? Nothing notable. It still essentially offers the same basic product in a marginally improved design. To be clear, I (still) find the founding principle of Twitter groundbreaking: this compact, loose and hyper-reactive data flow is an amazing complement to Facebook, Google and other giant data hubs that constitute the basis of today’s mainstream Internet. However, it feels grossly under-exploited, especially compared to its colleagues and their slew of sub-products and apps.

How about thinking of the user experience a little bit more, guys? That way, you may avoid stalling at a 10 billion valuation while Facebook grows well past 300…