Posted on May 28, 2008
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |
It’s the darling of the blogosphere. It’s the subject of debate. And to its investors, it’s .
I’m talking, of course about Twitter - the Web 2.0 service that probably gets as much love (and hate) as any other technology startup today.
My feelings about Twitter are no secret. In short, I think it’s unremarkable, practically useless and will never realistically go mainstream.
But putting my beliefs aside, I don’t think it takes more than a simple analysis of “Twitter by the numbers” to add a dose of perspective to all of the Twitter hype.
tracks activity on Twitter and displays a list of the Top 100 twits (or twats as I would more accurately describe some of them) based on the number of followers they have.
Being the “late adopter” that I am, I just came across Twitterholic this week and found the statistics on it to be quite interesting.
- Even though I think I’m fairly familiar with the “big names” in the technology world, I don’t know most of the twats on the Top 100.
- Only 29 twats have more than 10,000 followers.
- Only 75 twats have more than 5,000 followers.
- The most “recognizable” mainstream person on the list, Barack Obama, has just over 33,000 followers and ranks third on the Twitterholic Top 100 list. For perspective, consider that more than 1.5 million people to his campaign and 80,000 people for his recent rally in Oregon.
- Beating the popular presidential contender for the top two spots on the Top 100 list are , a technology journalist, and Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg. They have approximately 38,000 and 36,500 followers, respectively.
- 4 of the top 5 Twitterholics are technology industry/blogosphere/Web 2.0 twats.
- 22 of the top 25 Twitterholics are technology industry/blogosphere/Web 2.0 twats.
- It appears, from a quick visual count, that the rest of the Top 100 is filled primarily with technology industry/blogosphere/Web 2.0 twats as well.
I draw the following obvious, common sense conclusions from this:
- Even the “most popular” twats, with their five-figure followers, have relatively limited “audiences.”
- There is little “diversity” amongst the most popular twats, highlighting the fact that Twitter’s most avid users are primarily members of the vocal but still very niche technology industry/blogosphere/Web 2.0 crowd.
While looking at the most popular twats is a worthwhile exercise, this high-level analysis isn’t complete unless important macro-level data is incorporated.
, Twitter ranks 439th amongst social networks and forums. While recent growth has been impressive, Hitwise’s Heather Hopkins notes that the service is “still niche.”
Out of courtesy, I’ll admit that for a service like Twitter, traffic alone isn’t a fair measurement. Unfortunately, a deeper look only better evidences the fact that Twitter is less important to the world than .
, an anonymous source close to Twitter indicates that, as of March 2008, the service had more than 1 million registered twats, 200,000 active twats per week and was handling 3 million tweets each day.
To put this in context, consider that way back in February 2006 69 million people in the United States and 82 million people in Europe used an instant messaging program to communicate.
1.9 trillion SMS messages were sent globally in 2007 and , approximately 17 billion SMS messages were sent in China alone during the past Chinese New Year.
Obviously, comparing the total number of people using IM and the total number of SMS messages being sent to Twitter’s usage is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but the comparison does serve a valid purpose.
It highlights the fact that Twitter, by any reasonable measure, is far from the revolutionary communications tool that seem to think it is.
I could be dead wrong in saying that Twitter will never go mainstream but one thing is clear: it has a long way to go before it catches up to “antiquated” communications tools like IM and SMS.
Unfortunately, Twitter’s lack of diversity and the fact that there’s little indication that it’s gaining much traction of note outside of the circle jerk that is the technology/blogosphere/Web 2.0 community does not bode well for Twitter’s mainstream prospects anytime soon.
For now, Twitter will have to be satisfied with $15 million in funding and the knowledge that it’s like a virtual version of The Biggest Loser, except for the fact that the twats who win don’t lose weight - they lose time that is probably better spent elsewhere.