Inside Word: Twitter Could Be The Next MySpace (And That's Not A Compliment)


The Inside Word is a weekly feature that looks at compelling industry debates and discussions unfolding on the blogs of employees at digital-media companies.

Blogger: Cody Brown

Position: Publisher, NYU Local

Blog name:

Backstory: Brown is a college student who founded a daily campus news blog at New York University. He’s never formally worked at digital-media company, but a piece he wrote on Twitter’s business strategy earlier this month generated lots of debate on his personal blog, Twitter and elsewhere online.

Blog post: Brown argues in a blog post that Twitter may soon face some of MySpace’s recent and much-documented woes. “I have grown to love Twitter, but in my opinion we are rapidly approaching its peak,” he writes. “Its parallels to MySpace in 2006 are explicit. Twitter has been bootstrapped for a vast number of uses and while it’s exciting to watch, its service is not containable. Like MySpace, Twitter is getting pulled in a variety of directions.” Among them: Customer service, marketing, social networking, and real-time journalism.

“Twitter became popular before it had a mission. What this means is that its employees and investors will forever be trapped in boardrooms having … inane cyclical discussions about its identity. Twitter will either perpetually be simple insofar as its millions of users will have to hack the service to reflect their own values, or it will roll the dice on a focus, put the site through chronic redesigns, and risk a mass user exodus. Either way, its top talent will likely get frustrated and leave the company. Its top users will drift to something else then jump.”

Post-script: We asked Brown what he thinks Twitter should do. “Twitter can save itself from following the path of MySpace if it identifies a core market, then throws everything on the table to redesign their product for that market,” he tells us. “This would be like MySpace identifying music as its core market and targeting it to the point where they would dissolve the friend-to-friend social networking aspects of the site and re-brand. It’s a decision that is wildly risky, it will halt growth and anger a large percentage of your users, but it’s either this or a swan dive into irrelevance.”

We’ll see, although for now, despite a temporary lull in its growth in May, Twitter’s rise only continues.

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ian Rodwell


I liked your other article a lot and though the analysis was balanced and insightful… to the point where I am going to open myself up and ask you to give us your thoughts on mobile specific chat "communities" like ours –
(just punch into your phone browser)
Although you can access our service online, we are really a mobile-specific product that is integrated with the mobile operators and their billing systems. Our business model is pretty straight forward – get users to pay a small amount (generally in return for zero-rated data from the carrier) and we share that revenue directly with the carrier.

Cody Brown


sorry, I thought you were alluding to the 'kid's don't understand twitter meme' floating around.

I agree that there is no one way to use twitter. I think Dave Winer says it best when he describes it as taking all of the internet and putting it into 140 characters.

So it's impossible to 'get' because it means everything. I think that puts it in a vulnerable position for other companies to form that are more directed.


I'm interested in why you think so – could you explain?


This is an example of how easily led/misled this market is. Take Cody's blog post with a grain of salt. It lacked a lot to make it a solid argument. It doesn't make it bad, just kind of noise.


But MySpace isn't dying because of faster, decentralized, and open source competitors. No one is using those. I would say it's dying *because* it put its focus specifically on one market (music), which is what the author of this article is advocating, instead of improving the product for everyone in general.

MySpace and Twitter aren't a good thing to compare, though. MySpace is a bloated monster, cluttered, and has a poor user interface. It's terrible for someone to work with even as a partner and even though users can customize the look the things you have to do to accomplish that show how horribly undesigned and unplanned their infrastructure is.

Twitter is simple, clear, and the UI keeps getting more refined. And it's simple by design (say no more than 140 characters). That's their strong suit at the moment. There have been competitors that have tried to add on features (like Pownce) that have failed.

Rex Hammock


I wasn't bashing college students. I was bashing "everyone." (Me included.)

Sorry I didn't read your *other* post and was reacting to *this* post. And I'm sorry you haven't read all my posts on this topic as you'd know that I think "not getting Twitter" is something positive — as it leaves ones mind open to envision what can come next.

I feel certain we agree — especially on the notion that developments like RSS Cloud, pubhub-etc. — will mean Twitter must evolve or become irrelevant.

-Rex (@r)

Cody Brown


Bashing college students aside, if you would have read my post you would have seen that argument addressed.

The problem with Twitter as this general and technical product like a phone company (delivering messages at 140 characters) is the competition it will soon face from those who are doing it faster, decentralized, and open source. (ie RSS Cloud or the Push Button Web).

If you look into what is happening inside of MySpace – see this recent feature from NPR – you'll see that MySpace is now focusing on specific markets (music).

Unless Twitter goes open source, it will be pulled apart by a variety of other similar service who go beyond 140 characters as a restriction. Twitter is great now, I use it @codybrown ) but in a few years it will be left to choose a market or face irrelevance.

Rex Hammock

Yet more proof to my theory: No one gets Twitter. Even people in college. They get how they use Twitter. But they don't get how others use Twitter.

Saying Twitter should identify a market and develop a product around it is like saying the phone company should identify a market and redesign the telephone around it. Twitter is (currently) the common carrier of short message relays. That's all. Everything else is what you do *with* Twitter, not what it is.

Thousands of applications are built on it that target every market possible. Twitter needs to find ways to monetize those relationships (premium services? shared revenue on search advertising? a twitter app store?)

Their threat is from the internet itself: The chances that one private company will hold onto the pipes through which all "140-character-messages" will flow are not high — even a service that offers all the APIs as Twitter.

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