With the news of Twitter seeking a buyer and the potential candidates ranging from Salesforce to Google, I sort of went into a minor state of panic. To preface this post a bit, I have been using Twitter since May of 2008 and my how things have changed. Back then I didn’t really ‘get it’ as much as I think I do now. Back then, I would follow just about anything, interact with almost nobody, and Tweet garbage messages. But as the service matured and I as well into and out of high school and college, Twitter has now become so much of my internet-connected life. It is the one thing that manages to steal all or most of my attention. Look at the battery usage for my iPhone and you’ll always see Twitterrific perched at the top of the list. Twitter is what I check for when I want to be informed, when I want to laugh, when I want to discover something new, and when I want to posit my thoughts and make shitty jokes. It’s awesome.
So I’d really like it if the Twitter we’ve always known stuck around for some time and remained true to itself, but this news of a sale threatens that a little bit. Though there are plenty of examples of hands-off acquisitions that kept the original product mostly the same (Beats, Instagram, etc.), this just doesn’t seem like it could be one of those cases. The whole reason Twitter is even in this situation is because it doesn’t know what to do with itself. Part of Twitter thinks it needs to be a media company. Another part believes it’s a social network. The real problem is that Twitter needs to be a service like email or the internet in general, and you can’t really make a whole lot of money that way. It’s a shame that Twitter can’t simply exist, that it has to be tied down by the capitalist way of thinking. It shouldn’t have to be making money for shareholders, it shouldn’t have to do anything different than its core functionality.
There was a period of time a few years ago where many people shared a similar doomsayer sentiment about Twitter and they tried to flock to an alternative. Although App.net didn’t take off, it felt like a viable fallback in case something really bad happened to Twitter. The problem was that Twitter had hit critical mass, and even though changes were happening that negatively affected third-party developers, the general population of Twitter held everyone back from ditching it. The effects of those policy changes do still haunt many of the original Twitter user base. I really wish that Twitterrific for Mac could get updates to match its iOS counterpart, but because Twitter wants to tightly control the service third-party developers are limited to how many user tokens they can issue. Since iOS is more popular than macOS, they have to choose, apparently (unless you’re Tapbots, then I guess you get special treatment?). In any case, I’m at the point now where many of the Tweets I read on my Mac are cut off or missing content because my app is around four or five years without a substantial update. I could try the Twitter for Mac client, I could switch to Tweetbot for Mac, but I’m set it my ways for now.
I think the most interesting thing is how Twitter is like a diary that you only write snippets of things in at a time. Or better yet, it’s like a stream of consciousness that you share with the world. Everyone that uses Twitter is sharing what’s going on inside their head. This is why I don’t think anyone should try and monetize it, because it’s so personal. A good example would be monetizing relationships offline. Why should someone need to make a profit when I hang out and talk to my friends? If I was making decisions within Twitter, I would market it for what it is: a service. And if money needs to be made off of a service, you charge for it. Charge users $1/year to use it and that’s already $330 million a year.
In the end, if Twitter does fall apart there’s always going to be alternatives. That’s why I’m writing this blog post.