Time for Twitter to Go Gentle Into That Good Night?


Share on LinkedIn

Twitter is dying.

Here are the symptoms:

  • Microblogging peaked and began the descent into the trough of disillusionment in Gartner’s 2009 Hype Cycle for emerging technologies
  • Twitter has long suffered unscheduled outages due to architecture, scalability, and now Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. And they lose users each time they are down.
  • Facebook acquired FriendFeed (long considered the Twitter heir) AND released Facebook Lite.
  • The main problems Twitter has (lack of context, no threading, weak search tools) still remain deep within it

Is Twitter gently going into that long night?

Well, not so fast.

Although Gartner indeed positioned microblogging (of which Twitter is just one example) as declining, that is actually the time when technologies start to take off in adoption. Forget Ashton and Oprah, that was no real adoption – that was hype. This is the time when organizations will begin to realize the power of microblogging and the applications for the enterprise, understand the lessons learned, implement best practices, and make sense of the technology.

Actually, critical mass (around 30% of adoption in enterprise) is not reached until a technology begins to climb out of the trough. In that aspect, Twitter has not even reached its potential market.

There is a lot of market to conquer.

Is Twitter the right application to do it? Unfortunately, no. The weaknesses are too deep into the infrastructure to allow it time to fix them.

Is Facebook + FriendFeed + Facebook Lite the Twitter-killer? No, that is not going to be the case either. They also lack context (it is a little bit better, using groups and networks), and their search is not better than Twitter’s.

Is there another application out there? Maybe, but the interface and the way it works is going to be different. Twitter won’t disappear (although it will be acquired into a larger platform), nor microblogging will go away. The customers like the ability to receive instant gratification for complaints, even if it is not completely solved, and there is value in the platform.

There will be other, better tools.

The idea of short messages in real-time has lots of value for both customers and enterprises. However, for the new tools to emerge it may be time for Twitter to gently ease into the long night…

Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar, LLC
Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.


  1. Hi Esteban

    As Mark Twain might have said, “The reports of Twitter’s death are greatly exagerrated”.

    Twitter is still growing at a rate of over 1,300% per annum according to Nielsen, it is much easier to use than its competitors and it hasn’t suffered from a greedy landgrab for user data, unlike Facebook. Twitter has suffered from growing pains, but that is not all that uncommon in many technologically-driven companies.

    Gartner may think that Twitter is past its peak, but I think we can safely ignore the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo that passes for Gartner’s Hype Cycle. Elizabeth KÜbler-Ross, the social scientist who discovered the curve underlyng the hype cycle, is probably turning in her grave!

    We will have to wait and see whether Twitter, Friendfeed or another application is the eventual winner of the microblogging race. In the interim, I am sticking with Twitter.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  2. Hello Esteban,

    First of all it’s great to see your great posts here too!

    Now with regard to your post. Always risky to make such a prediction or even a wish for it to happen. Even if it, like you suggest, would be for the better because it will allow new micro-blogging applications to emerge.

    Twitter may not be the killer application for the mainstream masses in the future. And it does not have to be. I think in the future there will be different micro-blogging and/or social networking applications to serve different jobs.

    The main challenge for all social networking applications (including still My Space) of today will be just that: find out what the jobs are their (potential)Customers are trying to achieve and become better at delivering that. At the same time all need to focus on keeping costs low and tap into new revenue streams.

    I agree with Graham that “The reports of Twitter’s death are greatly exagerrated”. Like you say: Micro-blogging and social networks are here to stay. They somehow meet Customer needs. They all need to become better at that for their Customers.

    For me Twitter serves my needs better than any other platform so far. I expect to stick around for quite some time, regardless of maybe 4 or 5 outages of a couple of hours I’ve experienced myself over the past 6 months.

  3. Graham,

    I am not saying that Twitter is dead (in fact, I said that straight out in the post), I am saying that it may be time for it to move aside so we can grow microblogging (or whatever you want to call the platform) into a real business tool.

    I am not surprised you don’t like Gartner’s model, and I am certain that there are more than one influence that go into making it so. However, it has been my experience that Gartner’s tools are very good at explaining things when used properly.

    For example, the third paragraph in your response, where you say that Gartner thinks that Twitter is past its peak is the most common error that people make when looking at a Hype Cycle. Getting past the peak means that the real adoption, investment and learning begins. It is when we start the descent into the Trough that we can see grow in the market. Before that? just a few “loonies” have adopted it and made it work (somehow), mostly with string and wire.

    Also, the report talks about Microblogging in general, not Twitter. Of course, the press just loves to say that Twitter is dead – per Gartner.

    In any case, I am not even sure at this point whether Twitter or FF or Facebook will be the remaining tool when the dust settler, no one does. However, there are two types of problems for tools: one is deep within the architecture and infrastructure, the second is solvable feature / function issues. Twitter, same as most of the first-presence vendors in any market, suffers from the first one. Those are not growing pains, those are limiting circumstances.

    And that may, just may, be their Achilles heel.

    Thanks for furthering the conversation. Even though you may not think so, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for you and your thoughts. Just cannot share them some times.

  4. Wim,

    Thanks for the welcome. It is part of my world domination plan 🙂

    Second, I think you make some great points and I agree with mostly. One key to me is being able to differentiate between Twitter and microblogging. Notice that I did not say Twitter is dead, but I did say dying. Similar to Peter’s principle for people, tools can only grow to the point that their own limitations hamper any further growth. From where I stand, and they can prove me totally wrong, Twitter may be getting close to reaching the limits of what it can with this current architecture.

    Sure, they can retool and remain on top – we have seen that before (Apple is probably the most glaring example of how to retool a company to remain relevant). However, they may not have the time and resources. That would become a problem if another tool (whatever it is), that is better and more complete, can preempt them in that retooling race.

    I think that microblogging is going to be with us for many, many years (and hopefully change the horrible name to something more representative of what it does), and become a key component of E2.0 and even E3.0. I also think that the many other tools in SM will become more efficient and effective at what they do an gain a place in the enterprise. The future is indeed quite interesting from where I sit.

    If we have patience, we will see the results of what we are building today. (I hate patience, I need instant gratification :-D)

    Thanks for the conversation, looking forward to more of the same.

  5. Hi Esteban

    Thanks for correcting my misconceptions about Gartner’s Hype Curve. I took my cue from your statement “Gartner indeed positioned microblogging (of which Twitter is just one example) as declining” without paying sufficient attention to the statement “that is actually the time when technologies start to take off in adoption” that followed. Cognitive bias in action. See I am human after all.

    Humour notwithstanding, whilst I am no fan of the hype that surrounds the self-serving Hype Cycle, it is when all said and done just another example of a social diffusion curve commonly used in product planning. The trouble is, there is absolutely no way that Gartner has enough hard data to accurately forecast the diffusion of a new technology with any degree of accuracy. And if it had, it would probably be better served using one of the variants of e.g. the Bass Diffusion Model, suitably adjusted for social networks.

    I guess only time will tell whether Twitter, Facebook or a new ‘killer app’ will dominate micro-blogging, nano-blogging or femto-blogging in the future.

    PS. It is said that the mark of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. I try at all times to aspire to this high standard. It leads to some very interesting discussions with people like yourself. Thanks.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  6. Graham,

    You cannot be human, my world would crumble.

    I agree with your statements, and I think you can see where I am coming from. I don’t claim to have the answer, just to be passionate about my opinions.

    However, when someone proves me otherwise I am as passionate about the opposing view as well. It is a matter of passion for me (which must be the Latin blood).

    As for the rigor and methodology for the HC and MQ, when we meet and have a couple of beers I will be glad to share what I know with you.

    And that is all I am going to say about that.

    Thanks for the discussion, I truly enjoy them and makes me a better person (and I must admit that I do read what you send me and find it compelling and instructive).



Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here