Whither Twitter?

Facebook is the Sun King of social networks and its scale entrances advertisers. Facebook has 1.4 billion users and all of their data, so it offers both reach and targeting. Wall Street gets this model. It likes this model. And it rewards this model.

Twitter, on the other hand, never fit this mold, which prompted many investors to flee the stock over the last year. When the company reported quarterly earnings yesterday, its executives said that there were 288 million active Twitter users worldwide. That’s not enough to give advertisers huge reach, and new user growth on Twitter has slowed.

To be sure, Costolo is trying to tackle some of Twitter’s most nettlesome problems. Twitter’s user interface isn’t intuitive, and the work it takes to find useful or entertaining information on the network scares off some newbies.

Twitter has rolled out a new homepage and sign up process that should help users find stuff even if they don’t know who to follow or how to tweet. Costolo has also conceded that rampant abuse and hate speech on the site have driven away users. He wants to put a stop to this too…

Now time for my rant about Twitter: Maybe I do not know how to use it, but I find it very frustrating. To location a particular tweet is almost impossible. Their search interface is close to useless (in addition to being in tiny letters that are hard to read).

I may know the user the issued a tweet, but unless I am prepared to scroll through the user’s entire history, how do I find it? Any use of the search feature immediately flips you back to the entire Twitter-space.

They seriously need to improve it. Google is a snap by comparison. I can restrict the search by sites and in many other ways. Clearly a great deal of work has gone into it.  I can easily find detailed instructions written by Google themselves on how to use the product.  I have yet to find anything at all on searching Twitter.

A site like Twitchy apparently follows it closely and finds current trends that are interesting. But what if you want to find something that happened in the past? You are out of luck. It is completely oriented to the present.

Yet the site serves a valuable purpose: if you follow current news, you see references to it everywhere.  Embedded tweets are commonplace. 

Becoming stricter censors is only likely to make Twitter less appealing.  It simply cannot compete with Facebook in terms of the general public.  It is a sort of niche product, and it should stop trying to imitate Facebook and go with the niche.