Wither Twitter?

“Twitter is over!”


It’s like that Portlandia skit. The hipster dude sees the mainstream dude doing something he loves, so he declares it “over”. That’s basically the commentary about Twitter today.

Some old school Twitter users are now declaring outloud that Twitter is over. This seems like it has been in the making ever since Twitter went public last year. The service grew up, started making money, and it’s no longer “ours”, you see.

But it’s hard to call “peak” anything. You risk looking like a fool if and when you’re wrong. And that’s especially true of Twitter, which has been called “over” more than any other startup I can remember. Twitter was “over” in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

https://twitter.com/davepell/status/461590703772954624

But now those who want to be first (or at least loudest) this year to call “Peak Twitter”, have a new weapon: public data. Because Twitter is now a public company, they have to disclose certain numbers each quarter. And a few of those numbers aren’t growing as quickly as Wall Street would like. This has resulted in the stock price sinking close to the levels it initially opened trading at last year.

And that makes it a hell of a lot easier to call Twitter doomed. Because data. Numbers. Money. See?

Never mind that Wall Street had the same bearish mindset around Facebook shortly after it went public two years ago. If you recall, the Facebook stock price actually fell way below the initial IPO price. Facebook was “over”.

And then it came roaring back. And now Twitter is “over” because it’s not Facebook. The blogosphere can be so tiresome.

The reality is that Twitter is currently being torn down in the press so we can later get the Twitter resurrection story. That’s how this works. Why build something up if you can’t knock it down? And why knock it down if you can’t build it up again? Instead of one, consistent story, you get three for the price of one! The rise, the fall, the comeback. Rinse. Repeat.

One ironic twist here is that some folks are declaring Twitter “over” because it isn’t appealing to mainstream audiences. The hipster dudes are declaring the service they loved “over” because it was never cool enough to go mainstream. Because 200 million-plus active users isn’t mainstream. You know what’s mainstream? A billion active users.

Or something.

Here’s what I see: when I turn on my television to watch basically any sporting event, all I see are Tweets, Twitter usernames, and references to news being broken on Twitter. I’m not sure what percentage of SportsCenter is about Twitter on any given evening, but it’s not an insignificant amount.

Meanwhile, I fire up the Anthony Bourdain CNN show, Parts Unknown, on Netflix and what do I see? I see an episode that takes place in Libya, where Bourdain is asking freedom fighters what led to the uprising that took down Gaddafi? There is a one-word answer: “Twitter”.

Then I’m on Twitter and I’m seeing Bourdain live-tweet commentary about an episode of Parts Unknown currently airing.

Speaking of CNN, turn that channel on. Twitter. Twitter. Twitter.

Not mainstream. Not at all.

None of this is to say Twitter is without its challenges. From my own perspective, the product is sort of a mess of half-baked engagement experiments. But underneath that still lies a fun, powerful, and important service. They just need someone to go in there and tighten things up. To trim the fat. To say “no”.

I’m not too worried. They’ll get there. Because, again, we’ve seen this same story play over and over again for years now. This is at least the twentieth time Twitter has been “over”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlGqN3AKOsA

Disclosure: I personally hold some Twitter stock and am invested in a few funds that hold various Twitter positions. I should probably buy more. Also, shell art really is over.