Blog Post

Today, We Think Twitter Is Dead (for Now)

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

twitterdeadI woke up this morning, checked the news and realized that I didn’t get the “Today, we think Twitter is dead” memo. Last week, Twitter was on the cover of Time magazine, deemed to be a life-defining technology. Today, Twitter is making gloomy headlines.

  • says Twitter’s growth flattened in May 2009, but Facebook’s grew 8 percent. Twitter was up only 1.47 percent to 19.7 million uniques for the month, after growing 40 percent in April (via).
  • BBC reports that according to a Harvard Business School study, only 10 percent of Twitter users generate more than 90 percent of the content. Is that a problem? Not particularly, if you ask me. On the social web the 80/20 rule — 80 percent consumers to 20 percent creators — is the norm.
  • Did you know that the Twitpocalypse is near? No, we are not all getting horribly addicted to tweeting, though ESPN jocks clearly are. Instead, there is a bug in the Twitter system that would be like Y2K. Apparently each tweet is identified by an integer value and the maximum signed 32-bit integer value for most database applications is 2,147,483,648. And since Twitter is getting so popular, we are inching close to that number. You can keep track of it here. Now if I remember correctly, the Y2K bug didn’t really cause any major havoc. Unless you blame it for bursting the dot-com bubble.

The best part about this bad news and today’s Twitter-hate: Next week, we the media will have forgotten all about this and will be writing happy (if totally) inane stories such as how Twitter is going to change the way we live. Oh wait, Time magazine already did that. Never mind.

If you want, you can follow me on Twitter @om. I promise to be among the 10 percent of people who create more than 90 percent of the content. But don’t expect me to be happy all the time.

40 Responses to “Today, We Think Twitter Is Dead (for Now)”

  1. Datajunkie

    Good read – I think it is safe to say that Twitter has slowed down, but also it is important to remember a few things when looking at Twitter data from or any of the measurement sites:

    1) None of these sites account for traffic to any sites from mobile devices, so this is by no means the whole Twitter traffic story

    2) Most regular Twitter users do not use as their primary messaging vehicle – instead, they are using all sorts of desktop and mobile applications to tweet. So of course traffic to the Twitter domain will not continue to rise, even with increased engagement and twitter activity

  2. @ Om

    Another great post. Twitter saw a rush of users in first 4 months of 2009 but since then what i see daily most of it is useless. Twitter needs a serious change in business plan to keep avoiding a big problem in near future. Opinions and comments change over the time but the basic thing remains the same. Let us see how long this twitter bubble stays.

    You absolutely correct, i cross checked that thing. Good correction made :)

    Sonal Maheshwari

  3. qwirty

    There has to be some meme that turns any word or phrase into some Twitter-pun right? If not… I think I just thought of my million dollar idea…

  4. Funny how within a span of a month obituaries have started pouring in! Reminds me of the share market where rumors jack up the prices magnificently and then bring it down with a thud. I just hope people can learn to live in balance.

    See Twitter as a communication tool that can really help you get connected with friends and business associates [both clients and vendors] rather than seeing it as the cure-all solution to everything. I for one believe strongly in Twitter as a strong promotional tool that can help you bring in more customers through the most strong media-word of mouth…

    Manish Pahuja

  5. Yatca

    Just to clarify…all numeric IDs in Twitter are 64-bit integers (represented by ‘long’ in many languages). As such, they won’t wrap around for a very, very long time. The problem is that some 3rd party apps are parsing, manipulating and storing them as 32-bit integers. The fault is with the 3rd party apps – not the Twitter service itself.

  6. Henry

    Compete is a great example when Statistics are ‘lies and damn lies’. Web user actions are too complicated to be estimated by a few installed toolbars.

  7. eyeviewdigital

    How long before the big Twitter guns (Twuns?) start monetizing their links (Twinks?) and retweets (Tweetweets? oh, forget it!)?

    • I am not about judging Twitter. I take it at face value and don’t change my opinion about it. I made that call three years ago when I saw it for the first time – it was a new interaction tool. Nothing has changed my opinion, despite what the Time Magazine and nay sayers say. :-)

      • David S

        So much is said about twitter, about facebook and all that is our modern web.. but as you mentioned, take it at face value.. all these tools are just that.. TOOLS that you either benefit from or not. Twitter for me seems more like a real-time broadcast tool.. I don’t really see “conversations” going on too much (even on friendfeed for that matter).. I guess it is a sign of our human state too – lots of people shouting things out without a nice bit of silence to really listen and really think through things…

        Anyway, maybe I am just getting old! I do love the web, I love the tools… but they are just tools…

  8. Om, the Twitpocalypse is only going to affect third-party applications that user Twitter’s API, and only those that store tweets (posting wouldn’t be affected). Upgrading the database schema to accommodate the widget integer type is fairly trivial.

  9. >>only 10 percent of Twitter users generate more than 90 percent of the content.<>Signed 32-bit integer value for most database applications is 2,147,483,648. And since Twitter is getting so popular, we are inching close to that number<<

    Doesn't matter if they dump old tweets. No one really cares. Twitter is real time web. Anything beyond 1 week old (or may be 1 month who occasionally login) is a waste. No one look for old data.

    • I really don’t know why twitter is not making any improvements in it like facebook with the passage of time. For instance just compare what facebook has done as compared to the twitter in the past three four months. They have redesigned facebook look and now a days they are offering personalised URLs too. Seems that facebook is following this: “Changes are better and getting better never stops”