Twitter is moving into the mainstream faster than any major internet application in history, and is redefining online behavior as we continue to move away from “internet as information” and into the era of “internet as people”.
Obviously both information and socializing will play a huge role in online behavior for the duration, but like the ubiquitous and mysterious food source in the old Charleton Heston Movie, Soylent Green
Twitter is especially important because …. “Twitter is People”.
Some Twitter enthusiasts wrongly suggest that Twitter is important because it is breaking a few bits and bytes of news in real time (e.g. Hudson Plane Crash, CA Plane Crash) or providing a platform for discussion of pressing social issues (e.g. Gaza War). Meanwhile Twitter critics very foolishly point to the obvious about Twitter’s superficiality as if this was a defect.
Twitter is certainly largely superficial in terms of how people chit chat on the service, but this is the reason for it’s spectacular success. Humans by nature – ie by millions of years of evolution – are not designed well for thoughtful, reasoned discourse. Instead, for much of evolutionary history we were very UNintelligently designed by trial and error and random mutations to survive in sometimes hostile environments. This makes us a short term, superficial socializing thinker more than a long term planner. Sure, we sometimes do that long term stuff but if there are any lessons we can derive from history it is how poorly humanity has optimized our long term well being. One need look no further than the ongoing global financial crisis, global terror threats, tribal disputes across Africa, or global religious intolerance to see how poorly we cope with situations that would probably respond well with even a modest level of long term, optimal planning rather than the short term knee jerk nonsense that often stains our local and international finance, politics, and social relationships.
Twitter’s simplicity and superficiality are exactly why it will continue to thrive, diving into mainstream use faster than you can Tweet Ellen Degeneres, who yesterday challenged her viewers to become “followers” of her Twitter account. Although her goal of a million followers was not realistic, Ellen rose from zero to over 110,000 followers in a single day – perhaps a Twitter record and certainly a demonstration of a significant convergence of Television and internet audiences.
As internet activity stabilizes I think we’ll see people relying more and more on Twitter as their socializing platform of choice. There’s certainly room for many social networking sites, but I think Facebook needs to worry that Twitter may diminish the time people spend at Facebook in favor of the simpler, more intuitive interactions at Twitter. Twitter has done for social networking what Google did for Search – they created a super clean interface and made it extremely easy to participate, building a large and happy user base in a very short time. Unlike Google, however, Twitter will continue to face challenges monetizing their success, for as we’ve learned from Facebook’s experiences with ads and advertising fiascos it is not nearly as easy to make money in social networking as in information searching. I predict it never will be as easy and Twitter is likely to face some interesting challenges as they try to bridge the gap between user enthusiasm for Twitter and aversion to advertising. However Twitter will be a spectacular success with even a fraction of Google’s adverising revenue, so I see them thriving for some time.
TechCrunch’s Erick has this