Twitter, One Year Later and Nothing Has Changed

Twitter“Twitter’s all about the real time.” That’s what Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, said in this interview Scoble did with me sitting in the background almost 1 whole year ago. As I sit here, my Twitter is inconsistently providing updates, they have specifically told their users some updates will just be missing over the next little bit, and I’ve been waiting on CoTweet, my preferred client, for hours to provide me new updates. No, I don’t blame CoTweet – after all, my own service, SocialToo has also been suffering from these delays and slowness issues due to some sort of “architectural changes” they are making on the back-end. Twitter’s slow, follower and following numbers are off, apps are hitting rate limits when they shouldn’t normally be, caching issues are everywhere. We’re at Twitter’s mercy, and it’s far from real time!

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Rewind back one year. I recommend watching the above video if you have 15 minutes. I’m hearing the same things today that I heard one year ago in that room, and I’m still just as frustrated as I was an entire year ago. I’ve been strung along and I’m not happy, as a user, and especially as a developer.

A full year ago Twitter was working on their architecture, dealing with scalability issues in times of “massive growth”, and that never, ever stabilized. In fact I think the media has actually kind of gotten used to it – you rarely hear frustrations today like you did back then when nothing has really changed! At this point I’m beginning to think it will never stabilize – I’m scared as both a business owner who writes software on top of the service (I should have heeded my own warning half a year ago), and I’m scared as a user, and someone who has brought hundreds, if not thousands to try out the service that my reputation may be tarnished.

I’m talking with a lot of media entities and reporters about Twitter lately and frankly, I’m not sure what to tell them any more. Do I keep pushing them to try out Twitter? Do I just be brutally honest that this is just what Twitter is and people should just be prepared to get used to it? Or do I tell them it’s not worth leaving Facebook and their existing networks there to pursue? After all, Twitter themselves barely even use their own service. When was the last time you saw them respond to a complaint from someone about Twitter, on Twitter? Does anyone really know where to go on Twitter for Twitter support? Even in the video above I’m referred back to the developer mailing lists, not Twitter – nothing has changed. When at the same time I can always contact @comcastcares, or @scottmonty, or @RichardAtDell and get prime support from some of Twitter’s biggest users.

I’m seeing hundreds, if not thousands of people begin to game the system of Twitter. People are using services all around Twitter, and I’ll admit some are even using mine, to gain massive followings, empty followings, just to accrue followers with no relationship underneath that number. I’m beginning to feel that most of my followers are just dry numbers because of that – Twitter is seriously losing its value for me as a user.

Evan and Biz, it’s been a year already – I’m your biggest fan. Because of that I’m also your biggest critic, and I’d really like to see some improvement! At what point can we expect to see brighter skies and greener pastures on Twitter, or will it continue to be “we wish we could give you a time frame, but it could be months down the road” like you said a whole year ago? Just be frank with us – be honest. Let us know what to expect. Communicate to both your users and your developers in a way we can all enter this knowing what we’re going to get, because frankly I have no idea what to expect from the service any more.

Maybe it’s about time Twitter starts looking to sell. There are many businesses quite large enough to handle the problems Twitter is experiencing right now, and even prepare for 2 years down the road. There are businesses that have experienced this growth and know how to get it in order quick. Something’s not right at Twitter – it hasn’t been right for over a year now, and maybe it’s time to fix it.

Forgive my venting – as a developer I’m frustrated and I needed to get this out. In the meantime I’m going to go write some more code. While Twitter’s down you can find me on FriendFeed where it’s nice and green and pretty, oh, and real time!

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19 thoughts on “Twitter, One Year Later and Nothing Has Changed

  1. Let me share my perspective as a user. From my view, things are much better than they were a year ago. Twitter is actually communicating with its users, something that seemed to be lacking in early 2008. Twitter doesn't seem to drop off the face of the earth when a big tech event occurs. And they have taken steps to scale down their service in high-volume periods – which is better than having the entire service fail.

    However, there are two important caveats that need to be applied to my analysis:

    (1) I am not a developer, and therefore I don't have to deal with some of the issues that you have had to face – the original reason why you were in the room during that interview a year ago. (I haven't re-watched it yet, but I still remember the episode.)

    (2) Most importantly, I rarely interact directly with Twitter any more. I spent much of my online time on FriendFeed, and only go to Twitter to (a) check Twitter mentions, and (b) when I want to broadcast something that's more suitable for the Twitter format than for other formats. I'll occasionally go into native Twitter or (on my cell phone) Slandr, but not with the frequency with which I used the service (or tried to) a year ago. And yes, I get errors, but it seems to be less than the prior occurrences.

    Like

  2. John, where are they communicating with their users? Maybe you're seeing
    something I'm not. All I have seen are occasional blog posts that seem to
    continually say the same thing – “We've fixed a few things, but we're still
    broken”. I don't think that's ever changed.

    Like

  3. I'm starting to give up on Twitter myself. Oh, I'm still making use of it, but once Blellow starts to build an ecosystem around their service (hopefully as soon as they get feeds working and their API launched) Twitter will pretty much just become an echo of my activities elsewhere.

    Like you, Jesse, I much prefer FriendFeed these days, since it's still simple, and it works as intended. Real-time isn't that big an issue for me, but with the way Twitter gets gamed, when it's actually working properly, I just can't find the enjoyment in using it anymore.

    Like

  4. Chris, that's pretty much what it's becoming. Twitter is starting to become
    an “echo of activity elsewhere”, and people are starting already to flock to
    other services and propogate their activity from those services out to
    Twitter. As soon as everyone is on those services, it won't take much to
    not have a need to send data out to Twitter any more and things will change
    really quickly if they're not careful.

    Like

  5. Even if Twitter was more stable, I'd still be reluctant to use it exclusively. I find the way conversations are conducted on Twitter to be awkward and very much a compromise between a system not designed for chat-style conversations and users' demand for that sort of interaction. True it is very simple to use but there are far better tools available for conversations and sharing, my current favourite being FriendFeed.

    If Twitter hasn't addressed its issues from a year ago, that just adds to my reluctance to see it in the same light as my more committed Twitter contacts.

    Like

  6. For those who haven't seen it, Chris has stated his feelings in more detail in this post, “Perhaps it's time to abandon Twitter.” An excerpt:

    Jesse Stay details the reason behind my statement on his blog quite well. Twitter has returned to being frequently broken. And when it's working, it overly limits users who prefer 3rd party services or SMS for posting tweets.

    Not only that, but when problems are reported with the service, there's practically no real feedback about the problems at all! For an example, I and many other Canadians have had problems with SMS tweets being reposted multiple times by Twitter. At no time has Twitter even acknowledged the problem, which spans users of every mobile service provider in the country.

    Like

  7. Yesterday I spent half a day talking about twitter to a journalist for a national television station, and a good program. It was hard to be as enthusiastic as I once was due to how little twitter has improved, Another of the concerns is that technology has progressed such that twitter is no longer the only player on the market. There are now quite a few options.

    It's not just that those options are on the desktop. Using them on mobile devices is a lot easier. Look at facebook and Skype as just two of those examples. We can update those we already know without it being public, and without the time commitment of using a “new service” like twitter. By new service I mean people having to sign up, decide on who to follow and then participate.

    Twitter in my opinion, after two years of use has lost much of it's appeal. The community has been weekend considerably over the past few months,

    Like

  8. Let me share my perspective as a user. From my view, things are much better than they were a year ago. Twitter is actually communicating with its users, something that seemed to be lacking in early 2008. Twitter doesn't seem to drop off the face of the earth when a big tech event occurs. And they have taken steps to scale down their service in high-volume periods – which is better than having the entire service fail.

    However, there are two important caveats that need to be applied to my analysis:

    (1) I am not a developer, and therefore I don't have to deal with some of the issues that you have had to face – the original reason why you were in the room during that interview a year ago. (I haven't re-watched it yet, but I still remember the episode.)

    (2) Most importantly, I rarely interact directly with Twitter any more. I spent much of my online time on FriendFeed, and only go to Twitter to (a) check Twitter mentions, and (b) when I want to broadcast something that's more suitable for the Twitter format than for other formats. I'll occasionally go into native Twitter or (on my cell phone) Slandr, but not with the frequency with which I used the service (or tried to) a year ago. And yes, I get errors, but it seems to be less than the prior occurrences.

    Like

  9. John, where are they communicating with their users? Maybe you're seeing
    something I'm not. All I have seen are occasional blog posts that seem to
    continually say the same thing – “We've fixed a few things, but we're still
    broken”. I don't think that's ever changed.

    Like

  10. I'm starting to give up on Twitter myself. Oh, I'm still making use of it, but once Blellow starts to build an ecosystem around their service (hopefully as soon as they get feeds working and their API launched) Twitter will pretty much just become an echo of my activities elsewhere.

    Like you, Jesse, I much prefer FriendFeed these days, since it's still simple, and it works as intended. Real-time isn't that big an issue for me, but with the way Twitter gets gamed, when it's actually working properly, I just can't find the enjoyment in using it anymore.

    Like

  11. Chris, that's pretty much what it's becoming. Twitter is starting to become
    an “echo of activity elsewhere”, and people are starting already to flock to
    other services and propogate their activity from those services out to
    Twitter. As soon as everyone is on those services, it won't take much to
    not have a need to send data out to Twitter any more and things will change
    really quickly if they're not careful.

    Like

  12. Even if Twitter was more stable, I'd still be reluctant to use it exclusively. I find the way conversations are conducted on Twitter to be awkward and very much a compromise between a system not designed for chat-style conversations and users' demand for that sort of interaction. True it is very simple to use but there are far better tools available for conversations and sharing, my current favourite being FriendFeed.

    If Twitter hasn't addressed its issues from a year ago, that just adds to my reluctance to see it in the same light as my more committed Twitter contacts.

    Like

  13. For those who haven't seen it, Chris has stated his feelings in more detail in this post, “Perhaps it's time to abandon Twitter.” An excerpt:

    Jesse Stay details the reason behind my statement on his blog quite well. Twitter has returned to being frequently broken. And when it's working, it overly limits users who prefer 3rd party services or SMS for posting tweets.

    Not only that, but when problems are reported with the service, there's practically no real feedback about the problems at all! For an example, I and many other Canadians have had problems with SMS tweets being reposted multiple times by Twitter. At no time has Twitter even acknowledged the problem, which spans users of every mobile service provider in the country.

    Like

  14. Yesterday I spent half a day talking about twitter to a journalist for a national television station, and a good program. It was hard to be as enthusiastic as I once was due to how little twitter has improved, Another of the concerns is that technology has progressed such that twitter is no longer the only player on the market. There are now quite a few options.

    It's not just that those options are on the desktop. Using them on mobile devices is a lot easier. Look at facebook and Skype as just two of those examples. We can update those we already know without it being public, and without the time commitment of using a “new service” like twitter. By new service I mean people having to sign up, decide on who to follow and then participate.

    Twitter in my opinion, after two years of use has lost much of it's appeal. The community has been weekend considerably over the past few months,

    Like

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