A weekend New York Times article by David Carr rehashing common knowledge among anyone who’s ever read more than three blog posts about “why Twitter will endure” got me thinking about the ways in which it will not endure, or the ways in which it may endure via which no one will really care about it.
Yes, this is what I do on my vacations. I’ve tried not to write or even think much about technology the last two weeks, but so many people were talking about Carr’s article, I couldn’t help but notice.
So, what does it mean to “endure”? – to stay in business? So what – Lord and Taylor is still in business, but there are so many better stores that L&T is in big trouble, getting killed on the low end by Target and others, in the middle by Macy’s, and on the high end by Neiman, Nordstrom, and numerous more.
RC Cola has endured. They have a website and everything. They’re owned by something called the Cott Corporation now – I can hardly contain my excitement over that. We always think of Coke and Pepsi when we think of soft drinks, and maybe now we even think of carbonated things like Perrier or some sports drinks. But, still, RC Cola endures.
Classmates.com is still enduring (certainly annoying emails they send to me endure…in my trash bin) – but when was the last time you cared? I’m still somewhat of a MySpace fan for connecting with people, and certainly Facebook is better still in many functional ways. And LinkedIn has the business niche going on still. But no, Classmates.com endures. I’m proud of those guys. They’re connecting people, one high school classmate I don’t care about at a time.
So what does it mean to say that Twitter will endure?
“Endure” has a number of definitions: to undergo without giving in, to regard with tolerance, to continue in the same state, and to remain firm under misfortune without yielding. None of those sound very positive to me. I’m trying to imagine Bill Gates in an early Microsoft meeting with some guys around a table, giving a pitch about the future of the brand: “Thanks for coming, the title of this presentation is: MICROSOFT WILL ENDURE” – inspiring!
I’m not really interested in the question of whether “Twitter will endure” or not. They have $100 million from investors – unless they’re burning wads of cash building a replacement for the space shuttle, they will endure for quite a while. So, we have an answer to a question that was borderline stupid to ask in the first place, certainly in a post-Ashton Kutcher post-Oprah twitterverse.
The real question is, what will the future of the microsharing ecosystem look like? The ecosystems of department stores, soft drinks, and social networks have changed drastically over differing time periods. Some businesses still endure in various forms, but there’s only room at the top for one big one, one second place, and maybe a few niche players. Will Twitter be #1 or #2? Maybe, maybe not. No one knows.
It’s interesting to think about microsharing in the framework of dating websites. Some dating websites try to be a catch-all, like Match.com does; it’s a good site that has barely evolved since it started, and they try to appeal to everyone while simultaneously doing nothing special for hardly anyone. Marriage? Match.com Hookups? Match.com Newly divorced? Match.com Old? Young? Match.com
Match.com has about 15 million users last I checked. They will endure. But eHarmony (how can you escape the commericals?) has about 20 million. Why? They’re hitting a more marriage-minded, wholesome-dating niche. (Chemistry.com is also in that niche, at about 5 million members.)
On the raunchier side of the equation, AdultFriendFinder.com has about 32 million users, roughly the size of Match and eHarmony combined. Wow.
In principle they will all endure. But who’s making money, and who are people talking about the most, and which brands do people trust? I’m not sure I can answer that question for dating websites, but those are certainly the right questions.
So how does Twitter play into this? Well, Twitter is like the Match.com of microsharing – everything to everyone and nothing to no one. But who will be the eHarmony and AdultFriendFinder of microsharing?
It strikes me that while many articles have been written about Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others thinking and plotting about buying Twitter, that that’s the wrong ultimate move. The real strong move is to create your own in a big niche that Twitter’s ignoring. Take Microsoft for the sake of argument. They use the open source identi.ca (or similar) as a base for creating “microsharing for serious business people” and market it that way, as a free online service. I can see the commericals: “Twitter is for kids. MicroShare is for your business.” That’s the kind of thing my parents would react to.
On the flip side, why doesn’t some edgy youth company like Abercrombie & Fitch or Guess or Forever 21 start a “skanky” version of Twitter for teens to meet other teens and hook up for burgers, drinks, and more? Make it no holds barred, fun, engaging. Maybe you can even pretend to be a vampire or something, and “bite” people you have a crush on. I don’t know, whatever’s cool these days. And it should be all neon colors or something rad.
Predictions? My guess (1) is that people would rather participate in large niche sites. And my guess (2) is that advertisers would rather advertise there because they know the audience a little better. And my guess (3) is that these niche microsharing sites would provide more relevant information when linked up with Google and Bing search results, and would provide more relevant trending topics and other features to users.
Twitter will probably endure. The question is, do you care?