Twitter shifting of losing focus?

Back in March I wrote a post here titled ‘The shifting focus of Twitter?’. Reason was the news Posterous was bought by Twitter and in the design of the web client a clear shift to more publishing focused model.

Twitter seems to choose a strategy to become more the center of the Twitter universe. Still the most of the traffic runs via their own channel and they need more lock-in to capitalize on the data. I think persuading users to stay on the own channels is the strategy to be able to run business models. Until now without great success.

Last Friday two facts underline this developments. Twitter’s product manager Michael Sippy announces rich tweets controlled by Twitter, called Twitter Cards, and almost at the same time LinkedIn announced the ending of their syndication with Twitter. Both proving that their is a focus on their own platform for publishing.

Allthingsdigital wonders who’s next. All syndicators or tools that are creating services based on Twitter should fear a same destiny. I don’t know if that will be totally the case, Twitter might still need the connections to their platform, I am on the other hand afraid for the loose of focus of Twitter. The power of the tool and the platform is its simplicity and openness. As GigaOm analyses: we have some bad examples of others losing their focus.

The strong strategy Twitter always had in becoming the main channel for real-time communication, the new e-mail almost, was the strong focus on the 140 character paradigm, not going for fancy bigger posts or content. That is shifting since the last redesigns of their own website. They integrating images and movies and are making a rich app that combines the tweets in a much more magazine like context. It is no Flipboard yet but there is a clear shift going on for some time.

Another strong angle of the Twitter strategy was the distributed open approach to the clients. The API and firehose concepts have been very important for the rapid growth. In the same manner as Apple created a commercial model for the apps, letting third parties creating the value of the service, Twitter did the same with the almost endless third party app and client makers. They would never been able to reach the growth numbers if they would develop it all by themselves. Apart from scaling issues, the generated creativity and innovative power is the power of the service.

You can think about Googles strategy what you want – referring failures or weak implementations – in their core they stayed focused on their strong algorithm based search engine. New services that are added all contribute to this service. The latest announcement of Google Now is a great example of enhancing the core promise to a next level using all the built intelligence. Twitter should do so too. Better creating new services leveraging their hidden knowledge that makes their core better, and for instance improve serendipity or delivers better filtering tooling. As I wrote in March

I guess Twitter is trying to add a content strategy where the try to become the central place for curated real-time news. I am in dubio if it is a wise strategy. It can endanger the essence of the service, just like Google search may never be undermined with the other services. On the other hand, if they design it clever and incremental, it could leverage the existing and growing use by the real-time content consumers and it can become finally the new discovery platform that replaces some of search. It is very important to let the core function of the quick and simple messaging always exist and open for their third party partners. A hybrid model should get even more distinction between the curated content and the communication.

Google is showing in it’s last announcements a strong focus on building a connected ecosystem that works as fuel for the core business. Twitter does not own the ecosystem, but is embedded everywhere. It should be wise to build together with third parties API-users further on a platform that generates more and more value to the core, basic realtime communication function.

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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