Over the years, I’ve loved and watched Twitter’s growth. Twitter has been through its ups and downs. While in the lowest bottoms of its stock price, a new exodus of top executives, like its recent COO “leaving” the company is fueling the debate of Twitter struggling to grow users and keeping them. It’s under fire to produce but also has been undercut by other platforms that have been wildly successful with users like Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. How did the king of messaging in the new age get beaten out by newer smaller simplified apps? Ironically, while Facebook and others have learned that to be more successful they need to break up into more specific apps to drive user growth to compete, Twitter was ahead of this game early on.
Back in 2009 to 2010 techies in my circle would discuss who would come out a long distance winner, Facebook or Twitter. The results are in and its pretty obvious Facebook is winning. Over the years, the stories have come out that many of Twitters issues early on was infighting with management on the direction of the company. Chris Dixon, an angel investor, called Twitter in 2010 “a drunk guy with an Uzi.”
Twitter has always had a learning curve challenge with users historically trying it, leaving and sometimes coming back. It still haunts it to this day as Twitter struggles to compete for new users. Third party developers once made Twitter a hit BECAUSE they made apps that helped segment and make the platform usable, understandable and useful. Many of them showed Twitter where to take its product to be successful. Twitter was a massive hit at the time as third party developers acted primarily as evangelists and promoters of the platform. It was the best free advertising you couldn’t buy. The apps flooded the social media ecosystem and made Twitter dominate and popular at the time. Twitter had an advertising army in their pocket, not to mention all the social media consultants that helped promote it like myself. There were hundreds of innovative ways to use Twitter and it tapped an amazing source of ideas. In looking back, Twitter was far ahead of the curve when you see companies like Facebook and Google now breaking up their platforms into smaller segmented mobile apps.
Over a series of missteps in 2010 onward Twitter began destroying third party apps and relationships. In late 2010 Ev Williams admitted they had screwed up with third party developers, but it was too late. Developers were burned and moved on to make Apple iOS apps, Facebook Apps and others more favorable. While a few have endured to make Twitter more palpable and useful like Hootsuite (that I extensively use over the lame, crippled complex Twitter app), Twitter still struggles to have new users understand it and use it like other popular services that are stealing away its interests.
The biggest mistake Twitter ever made was killing off its third party developers. For a company that seems with recent departures to struggle with ideas and making the platform more accessible and usable, it certainly could have used the brain trust of all those developers and free advertising. Twitter now has viable competition from a solid group of messaging apps and with video becoming more mainstream in the future it needs to win that battle also. By 2018, 84% of Internet Traffic Will Be Video Content, how will Twitter compete?
Maybe Twitter should figure out how to incorporate third party developers once again? Twitters mobile native app is a nightmare confusing mess even I as a pro user avoid as it baffles my own mind, I cant imagine what new users feel.
The biggest questions are can Twitter ever recover from it from its 2010 misteps and how can it change and adapt? I hope for the best and that it learns from its past. I still love Twitter.