Twitter is facing its end as we know it
The social graph is Twitter's most valuable property. The way users are following media brands and people is the real value of Twitter. If the 140-characters limit and timeline used to be its defining elements, the fact is that users are staying on Twitter because of their networks, not because of the tweet format. What happens if people find another valuable network elsewhere that doesn't pair with a medium full of limitations? Maybe it is time for Twitter to evolve.
Remember the times where we used to debate over what defines a social network versus a media platform?
This debate occurred when we were speaking of Facebook and Twitter, mostly, about how they were different in a lot of ways. Today, both platforms are kind of the same thing: timeline with pictures and videos, sharing and appreciation capabilities, messaging, etc. Sure, there are still some differences in the nature of these platforms but they are both heading for the same destination.
Facebook and Twitter differentiate by the nature of the connections you have on these networks. Connect with your friends on Facebook, connect with what matters to you on Twitter. This is what really defined Twitter, the media platform that matters, while Facebook was just this "social network" thing, to connect with acquaintances who don't have the same interests as you.
The social graph has always been what matters most
Today, people tend to follow more and more pages on Facebook, transforming their boring "social network" newsfeed into an interests-focused timeline, and Twitter is getting more and more noisy, morphing the timeline into a mess of buttons and screenshorts, kind of intimidating for everybody new on Twitter. Twitter might soon include autoplay-videos and an edgerank-nuzzle-like curation tool to its product, while Facebook could easily embrace the real-time power of Twitter using its increasingly powerful and popular Messenger platform.
As a power user of Twitter for almost 7 years now, I have witnessed a big change in the last 6 months:
- People are following more users to have more power brought to the 3rd party tools for curation (ruining the timeline experience in the process). Twitter itself is pushing people to follow more adding the follow button everywhere as if following someone should be as easy and without consequences as favoriting a tweet (spoiler alert: it is not).
- Images everywhere : the Twitter app now displays only 3 tweets when you open the app, making it harder to scroll and read fast, keeping the power users on Tweetbot for its cleaner look, more old-school-timeline focused. People quickly learned to adapt to this and the screenshorts came, finally allowing them to put more words into their tweets. Even Ev Williams thinks it is the way to go, making it the de-facto way to tweet a quote from Medium.
The end of the tweet format
Twitter looks more and more like my rich-content Tumblr timeline, but on Twitter you are still limited by the 140 characters format. What is the real usefulness of this limit today? Hard to say. So why don't people switch over to Tumblr for posting and reading their timelines? It is a better technical platform after all: you can do way more and in a very elegant way.
Problem is: the people you want to reach are on Twitter.
This is precisely the sole reason I can think of today that makes Twitter so good: the people. Facebook still doesn't have this.
If the Twitter medium is getting old and seriously outdated (judging by the way people use it out of the intended purposes), there is still time to improve it. But how? How can Twitter adapt and change drastically without pushing people out? Will it be able to do so soon enough, before other apps take control of media social distribution, building their own valuable social graphs?
That's a real question Twitter is going to have to answer or it will be disrupted, eventually. For the first time, I'm actually worried.