A cool discussion emerged in the comments of Fabrice's latest post and I wanted to reflect it as a seperate topic here.
Comparing Facebook and Twitter, over 50% of Facebook’s 200 million
active users login every day. 60% of Twitter users stop using it after
a month. I personally find Facebook much more relevant to my personal
life – I like seeing pictures, relationship status changes, etc.
In the comments, I pointed to an earlier post with my similar feelings and Chris Abraham, who seems to have a very well-developed perspective on Twitter, countered with a long comment:
Twitter does everything right where Second Life failed. Second Life
was amazingly heavy, requiring lots of computer, lots of bandwidth, and
a commitment to client software; SecondLife
is a closed system, a walled city, completely invisible to serendipity
and coincidence; Second Life is greedy, pushing avarice and commerce;
Second Life is ephemeral and anti-textual, meaning that all of the work
and all of the energy one spent on Second Life invariably went away the
moment people stopped investing time and money into the platform.
While there was a programming language, a scripting language, and lots
of room for creativity, Second Life was not nearly as agnostic and open
a platform as it could have been.
On the other hand, Twitter is open, has a fantastically generous API (Open API as opposed to a Closed API), Twitter is highly textual, highly “contagious,” and very much real time.
In many ways, the Twitter platform has become almost a fungible
INPUT / OUTPUT flow of data, like IP or like tap water, or like the
electrical mains — all the creativity and all of the development is
happening as a result of this relatively featureless and structureless
Everybody admits that the elegance of Facebook’s
interface does an amazing job of hand-holding the diverse levels of
technological prowess that Facebook users posses; however, Facebook
shares many things in common with Second Life: it is a walled-garden,
it is very cliquey and very hard to cross-pollenate, and finally —
Facebook works very hard at defining what the user experience is to the
best of its ability in a world where openness and open access can
oftentimes work for you instead of against you.
People who don’t get Twitter really have not spent enough time with
it. There are tons of ways people can use Twitter. Many people use
Twitter as an alternative to an RSS feed
news reader, following the Twitter feeds of news organizations and news
alerts, including links and so forth. Twitter doesn’t care how you use
it: passive reading or active conversation.
In fact, Twitter is such a neutral solution that you might very well
forget that you’re a member, which is why there might be a perception
that over 60% of all of the users who register never go back: Twitter
doesn’t want to be too much trouble.
Then the discussion between Chris and me veered over to the (to me) surpisingly high median age of Twitter users (31!, according to Pew), and what it meant for Twitter. I think it's alarming and feel that it's an indication of the value of the social graph that is owned, at this pointi by Facebook. Chris feels differently:
Well, “kids” don’t blog either. Kids won’t blog until they feel
empowered enough to start creating on their own accord or until they
find it useful — hell, “kids” might never ever take to Twitter, except
that they will want to engage with TMZ Staffers on Twitter
(@harveylevintmz @daxholt @ninaparkertmz @lmharris70 @carolynafenton
@frankvelardo) because there will be loads of kids who will get on
board to be able to stalk their favorite celebs and stars. But who
knows. Rockers and fans are still on MySpace and the “kids” have yet to
bail on Facebook (yet) so we’ll see what happens. It is very odd to see
how the median age for blogging and twittering is much older than you
would think: “the median age of a Twitter user is 31. In comparison,
the median age of a MySpace user is 27, Facebook user is 26 and
LinkedIn user is 40.7,” according to Pew, http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/Twitter-and-status-updating/Part-1/Section-3.aspx?r=1
Anyway, I think this is a very interesting issue. It makes me think about the lack of microblogging interest in Turkey, especially given the enormous usage of SMS. How does age play into it? Do you need a social graph for presence communication? Is Twitter being hyped by marketers, because it resembles a new, relatively unstructured, medium they can utilize for their clients/constituents?