Twitter is under siege with people saying its days are numbered. Users are threatening to leave for any of number reasons – most of them baseless. Financial analysts and reporters, looking at Twitter’s declining stock price, see a dying company.

I couldn’t disagree more. Twitter is what it is, one of the more powerful, if not the most powerful, news and information reporting utilities in the world. I doubt that Reuters, UPI or the AP had near the influence and importance in their first decade.

I’m with New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) who believes Twitter is our most important social network.

That might sound like the ravings of an addict, but look at the headlines in every morning’s newspaper and the obsessions of every evening’s cable news broadcast. Just about anything you encounter in the news media these days has some foot in the controversies and conversations occurring on the 140-character network.

Financial valuations of Twitter as a measurement of the company’s success are flawed.

Wall Street has only one template of success for an Internet company: Google and, later, Facebook. By filing for an initial public offering, Twitter was telling the world that it was part of the same club — that there was no upper bound to its business aims, and that it would try to build a money machine that matched the size and importance of its service.

Twitter need not become a $50 billion or $100 billion business for it to be a well run and very profitable utility.

Long time technology leader and executive, Anil Dash (@anildash) nailed it in telling Manjoo:

Maybe Twitter is not meant to be the most popular band in the world. Maybe it’s meant to be merely Pearl Jam and not U2, and maybe Twitter could find equilibrium as a company with an enterprise value of merely $5 billion. [Twitter is at $10 billion today]

Look at Yahoo, says Manjoo, if you’re looking for an Internet company that chased elusive growth for growth’s sake.

After losing its dominance as a search engine, Yahoo has faced more than a decade of struggle mainly because it has tried too long to become the one-stop portal that it isn’t.

In that effort it has squandered talent and money and run through more chief executives than you’d find at a Brooks Brothers sale. If, instead of pursuing the moon, Yahoo had vastly lowered its ambitions and planned to do one or two things really well, it could have found a sustainable path forward.

The fact is Twitter is pretty darn popular. How would you like to have an Internet business that’s twenty percent as big as Facebook, the world’s largest media channel – social or otherwise? Twitter’s user base grew 9% in the last year to 307 million.

Sure, Twitter is tough for some folks to figure out, but, as Manjoo points out, it works awfully well.

Twitter is an accessible, real-time network that has become the nerve center of the world’s journalists, politicians, activists and agitants, it has, for better or worse, demonstrated an unrivaled capacity to influence real things in the real world.

Lost in all the noise is how Twitter has democratized media and news coverage. Twitter has given people who went unheard a voice. DeRay McKesson (@DeRay), one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, summed it well for Manjoo.

Twitter has created space for the amplification of the voice of marginalized people in ways that we have not seen before. It has redefined our understanding of the public sphere to be more inclusive and more accessible and to have substantive impact on real-world events.

Don’t believe the news reports that Twitter is on the decline. Reject the social media pundits, including those teaching lawyers and other professionals, who are telling you that Twitter is not worthwhile to understand and use.

Twitter’s message may have drifted for a while but co-founder, Jack Dorsey is back at the helm as CEO. Dorsey, founder of Square, is a widely respected technology innovator and just completed a major board and executive shakeup. He’s on record as saying his intent is to make Twitter more “twittery.” And that’s a good thing.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Gerry Buckle

  • shg

    There are a few different problems happening simultaneously giving rise to the calls that Twitter is dying. One, that you note, is that despite it’s efficacy as a medium, its business model has issues. Twitter has tons of users, but no good way to monetize them. This is a common problem with tech, and one that brought down many a search engine before Google. The advertising model is a problem for Twitter, as promoted twits are universally ignored and hated. If Twitter can’t make money, what difference does it make that it has millions of users?

    But Twitter’s collapsing stock price isn’t the cause, but the (dubious) effect, of the cries. Twitter has taken a position that it wants to “clean up” its user content, to rid itself of the scourge of mean twits that hurt people’s feelings. To do this, Jack Dorsey has picked a side in the culture war. He created the Twitter Trust & Security Council, comprised of feminist and SJW groups dedicated to censoring “hate speech,” which they define as any speech inconsistent with speech they prefer.

    When Twitter “dechecked” conservative @Nero, with his more than 150,000 followers, it sent a message that political debate would no longer be tolerated; that Twitter was to be a safe space for progressive thought. With its new council, which failed to include anyone or any group that supported free speech, it made clear that Twitter had adjusted its business model to cater to the feelings of some users at the expense of others.

    Is Twitter, as a tech medium, any different today than it was a year ago? Nope. Same stuff. But as a social medium, pandering to one political and cultural philosphy, the change is clear. But is Twitter still viable as a social medium, when it has chosen only to serve progressive thought and causes? If you want to hang out in an echo chamber of feminism, social justice, progressive causes and hugs, then Twitter is the place for you.
    If, on the other hand, you want to spend time in the marketplace of ideas, where all thought is welcome, then Twitter is dying. No one killed it. It committed suicide. And its reflected in the demise of its stock price, as business flee this sinking ship.

    • Twitter is generating a ton in revenue, $710 million in the last quarter of 2015, up 50% from the year before. It has about $3.5 billion in the bank. It can monetize its users, but not like Google or Facebook and no one is going to do that.

      The free speech thing is disturbing. Twitter does need to be a pipe for info, news and commentary to flow through. It’s not as censored as Retuters, UPI and the AP are though — and none of those are going to let the average Joe and Jane send news across their wires.

  • Kevin, I, too, am nowhere near close to writing off twitter. Twitter is a different tool than it was a year ago, largely because of the video components that continue to be added. Ad revenue is up exponentially, and it looks as though January numbers have been very positive. This isn’t a surprise as big national and world events helped to make that happen. Few places are better than Twitter for real time conversation during events like the Super Bowl, or the numerous award shows that are upon us this season.

    The reconfiguration of the newsfeed has also changed Twitter. I appreciate the recently added While You Were Away feature, & I think the new algorithm-based newsfeed will also be very interesting because, like Facebook and Linkedin, we will be shown Tweets from those we have already chosen to interact with the most. I won’t necessarily noticed a big change because I continue to use Twitter management tools and lists just as I have since I started on Twitter in 2008. It is rare when I use Twitter from its own website. The only time I find myself doing that is during trainings, of course.

    The good thing about that change is that it will be optional in the settings, and will also revert to a reverse chronological newsfeed once we pull down on those recent tweets that Twitter will show us. Flexibility is being built into the platform, which I don’t think hurts at all.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Nancy. Twitter is indeed a staple that will likely last longer than fax machines.

  • Twitter is a better social media platform to communicate with whole world through great professional connections. It is accepted worldwide without any spamming problem.