It’s amazing how quickly our ideas of convenience change. Think about the early days of the Internet: Remember dial-up modem noises and sluggish connections? Remember those clunky, almost paleolithic Web pages? Remember how maddeningly useless early search engines were?
I don’t know about you, but I was totally blown away by it all. Sure, it could tough to navigate, but using the Web was so much more convenient than heading to the mall, the library or the post office to run errands that I didn’t even notice all the technology’s many shortcomings. Would I go back to that world now? Not a chance.
Now think about Twitter. Sure, it’s all kinds of convenient and useful, but it’s filled with little imperfections we’ve trained ourselves not to notice. In the lead story of today’s SmartBrief on Social Media, Fred Wilson does an admirable job of reminding us of all the little hoops we jump through just to make the service work the way it should. Wilson is calling for a killer app to take the network to the next level. But I think first we need to get a network that recognizes what level its users are actually on. We don’t need a killer app. We need a killer network.
Friendster gave way to MySpace, which passed the torch to Facebook. Each of these services improved upon the stability, popularity and feature set of its predecessor. So how is that Twitter has stood unchallenged on the field of micro-blogging for more than three years? The platform is unreliable, ungainly and seems patently uninterested in making life easier for its users. Why is it still dominant? How much longer can that last?
The obvious answer is say that Twitter’s user base is too large. But then, no one thought a college-only network would someday unseat MySpace. My guess is that whatever unseats Twitter will come from a similar niche market. Wherever it comes from, it will build on the mistakes and the omissions Twitter has made. Users shouldn’t have to rely on killer apps to get the most out of a platform; the platform needs to evolve to meet the users’ needs. If Twitter hasn’t addressed its own shortcomings by the time competition does pop up, it may never get the chance.
What do you think? Is Twitter lacking a killer app? Does the network need a total overhaul? Would users be better served by a competing network?
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