In case you weren’t aware, Twitter is doomed! Like, Apple levels of doomed. User growth has been stalled for years. Advertising isn’t picking up nearly as well as they’d hoped. And the stock price is trading at less than my high school allowance because Wall Street is losing faith. I would personally prefer they regain their faith in Twitter, because I bought the stock at $45. I’d like to recoup that investment.
Ever since Jack came back to save his flailing company, people have been waiting for him to sprinkle pixie dust on Market St and suddenly solve all of Twitter’s problems. Sadly, not even Steve Jobs’s spiritual son can perform this kind of magic in just a few months. There have been a few different product launches since last fall and another round of #ExecutiveShuffle, but the ultimate problems of Twitter still remain. Twitter is too damn hard. Not for you, the fine person reading this article. Not for me certainly. I’ve been on it for a decade this July. But for those other people out there in the world? The “normals”? They don’t get it.
How do I know? I am @justin on Twitter and this has been my mentions tab for at least half a decade.
You’ll notice that most of these tweets aren’t necessarily for me. I am constantly inundated with tweets to “@Justin Bieber”, “@Justin Trudeau”, “@Justin Timberlake”, and maybe once even “@Justin Guarini.” The examples above are just a few random people who were confused while tweeting. It gets worse when someone like TMZ (3.69 million followers) tweets about “@Justin Bieber” instead of “@JustinBieber” and I can’t use Twitter for a few days without wanting to switch back to Pownce. When Bieber himself tweets I am well aware, because my mentions stream blows up even worse than this.
More than annoying, it can also be somewhat sad. I’ve seen teen girls confess their undying love to Bieber. I know when they cry because he wore a green shirt. I’ve even seen people threaten to cut themselves if he doesn’t reply to them. Am I supposed to reply to that tweet? It was sent to me (@justin bieber), and not Bieber (@justinbieber), after all. I ultimately end up spending an inordinate amount of time blocking these accounts so try to keep my mentions at some sort of sane level. At last check, I’ve blocked well over 60,000 accounts. That’s at least 1/3 of Twitter’s 4th quarter monthly active users!
Because of this, I don’t really enjoy Twitter that much anymore. This is also why I don’t use it nearly as much as I used to. It’s bad enough that the culture of Twitter is centered around abuse, actually-ing people, and making it way too easy for dumb people to try to sound smart. Add on top of it that most people don’t understand the product and I have to spend part of my life doing manual labor trying to make the service usable for me. No better way to spend a Saturday night than Twitter Block Button and Chill.
The fundamental tenants of Twitter are obviously broken for most people and they have been for years. Based on the currently super confusing interface the product offers, Twitter’s conversational nature lets me gauge where Bieber is still most popular (South America, Southeast Asia) and how Justin Trudeau is doing up in Canada (pretty great!). The product does not enable people to successfully talk to their favorite celebrities or #brands. Instead they end up talking to an iOS developer in Colorado who really doesn’t want to know them. Why would I want to keep using a product that enables this exactly?
Twitter the the company seems aware of this based on their last shareholder letter.
We are going to fix the broken windows and confusing parts, like the .@name syntax and @reply rules, that we know inhibit usage and drive people away. We’re going to improve the timeline to make sure you see the best Tweets, while preserving the timeliness we are known for. The timeline improvement we announced just this morning has grown usage across the board (including Tweeting and Retweeting). We’re going to improve onboarding flows to make sure you easily find both your contacts and your interests. We’re going to make Tweeting faster while making Tweets more expressive with both text and visual media. We’re going to help people come together around a particular topic, such as our @NBA timelines experiences. Relentlessly refining Twitter will enable more people to get more out of Twitter faster.
Whether this is just lip service to shareholders to try and quell another mass sell-off after a disappointing quarter, or something actually will change remains to be seen. I personally welcome the algorithmic timeline, because I no longer check Twitter more than once a day or so. I don’t want to see every tweet from every person I follow and since my mentions are usually a dumpster fire I don’t have much to look for in there either.
If @jack is looking for a fuzzy metric to determine whether Twitter is getting easier to use, take a peek at my mentions every couple months and gauge my misery level. The happier I am, the easier Twitter is becoming to use most likely.