Let’s move tweeting off Twitter

Blogging, emailing and messaging aren’t owned by anybody.  Tweeting is owned by Twitter. That’s a problem.

In all fairness, this probably wasn’t the plan when Twitter’s founders started the service. But that’s where they (and we) are now. Twitter has become de facto infrastructure, and that’s bad, because Twitter is failing.

Getting 20,500,000 Google Image search results for “twitter fail” paints a picture that should be convincing enough. (See Danny Sullivan‘s comment below for a correct caveat about this metric.) Twitter’s own search results for “hourly usage limit”+wtf wraps the case. I posted my own frustrations with this the other day. After Eric Leone recommended that I debug things by going to https://twitter.com/settings/connections and turning off anything suspicious, I found the only sure way to trouble-shoot was to turn everything off (there were about twenty other sites/services listed with dependencies on Twitter), and then turn each one back on again, one at a time, to see which one (or ones) were causing the problem. So I turned them all off; and then Twitter made the whole list disappear, so I couldn’t go back and turn any of them on again.

Meanwhile I still get the “hourly usage limit” message, and/or worse:

twitter fail

So Twitter has become borderline-useless for me. Same goes for all the stuff that depended on Twitter that I turned off.

In that same thread Evan Prodromou graciously offered to help set up my own Status.Net server. I’m going for it, soon as I get back from my week here in Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, I’m also raising a cheer for whatever Dave is doing toward “building a microblog platform without a company in the middle”.

Tweeting without Twitter. I like the sound of that.



20 responses to “Let’s move tweeting off Twitter”

  1. Understand and appreciate your frustrations, but dragging a search count into the mix gives this the air of being somehow statistically proven, yet it means nothing.

    google fail gives me 28 million image matches — but I’m pretty sure that you’re finding Google useful.

    facebook fail gives me 23 million image matches, so by those stats, facebook has bigger issues than twitter.

    On the hourly usage limit, if I remove the WTF — which goes more broadly than what you did — I get all of 22 tweets mentioning this in the past 12 hours. That’s like nothing.

    A better search would be this:


    That’s the Google Realtime Search timeline view — you can see this started becoming an issue toward the end of January.

    Personally, I rarely see it. But that might be because I’m using a third-party client like Twhirl.

    I get the impression you’re checking mentions often through the site. I also suspect each request is generating a new search. With a client, the searches might be happening less frequently and you’re also storing up the past ones. I’ve never had this hit me on Twhirl.

    I suppose this also goes back to the Twitter party line that only power users need clients. I suppose so — because Twitter’s own site doesn’t seem to be supporting some of the power user needs.

  2. […] Let’s move tweeting off Twitter.  blogs.law.harvard.edu […]

  3. Effective Peer to Peer networking (e.g. widespread deployment of IPv6) will speed up the internet mind by 2 orders of magnitude and eliminate middlemen like skype and twitter… and maybe one day, facebook.

  4. With Twitter there is a database to search. If you want to know what people think about Sarah Palin, for example, you search. It is difficult to be sure about the alternatives, but if there is no way to search Twitter becomes less useful in finding out what is going on. How am I going to learn about what is happening in Japan or Syria if there is only peer to peer networking?

  5. If Twitter hadn’t been so focused on the web UI when they started, the logical thing would have been to build it on top of Jabber, which is scalable, distributed, and has plenty of clients. But they didn’t, and now they’d have no motivation to do so, as they benefit from the silo they created.

    We have Identi.ca, Jabber, multi-protocol clients, and other technical solutions to supplanting Twitter. What’s missing is the marketing and a compelling reason to motivate a critical mass of users to switch.

    The path with probably the best potential is one alluded to in this article:

    It mentions that UberMedia is rumored to be working on a Twitter competitor, and that it was looking to purchase TweetDeck, which when combined with other Twitter clients already owned by UberMedia, it would control 20% of the tweets generated. With that power, they could easily simulcast a critical mass of tweets on their own network, and draw people over.

  6. Danny, I added a pointer to your comment. Correct point about the search result count. My emphasis there should have been on the content of the search (an image one) rather than numerical piece, which is a wild guess on Google’s part in any case.

    I didn’t know that Twitter’s party line was that “only power users need clients.” Worse, I’ve been told (by some power users) that clients are the problem. So forgive another wtf feeling on my part.

    I just installed Thwirl, and I now recall my problem there (since I’ve tried it before): it runs on Adobe Air, which defaults to very tiny images and text on my laptop. Even with reading glasses, my eyes aren’t equal to the challenge. Tweetdeck has the same problem for me.

    So I just fired up HootSuite and we’ll see what happens.

    Meanwhile, the silo’d nature of Twitter’s position, and the exposure the rest of us have in the midst, remains.

  7. Bob Boynton wrote:
    > With Twitter there is a database to search.
    > How am I going to learn about what is happening in Japan or Syria
    > if there is only peer to peer networking?

    Ummm…Google. There’s no canonical, central database for web pages today. Why should micro blogging be any different.

    As long as the replacement platform has a broadcast element – a mechanism for messages to get distributed to public servers – then any party who wishes to build an archive and index of the messages can do so.

  8. At one time Steve Gillmor got us all to move over to Identica (Leo even set up his own TwitArmy version – Very few followed and finally everyone went back to Twitter. So, good luck with either Dave’s or Status – “Everything” relies on the user volume of Twitter to make them useful. Or am I missing something?

    By the way, I use Tweetie and like Danny have never gotten that message.

  9. Doc – you could also try Seesmic Web – similar functionality to Tweetdeck etc, but no client, all web-based (http://seesmic.com/web/ )

  10. Competition is good. Twitter has no competition, or at least none which challenge it…yet.

    Status.net is great and I hope it builds numbers of installations and users.

    A great thing to come out of Status.net is the OStatus protocol, and I hope to see more implementations of OStatus-compliant services.

    One such service is http://www.rstat.us. It’s a Ruby/Sinatra web app with an extremely permissive license (WTFPL). It isn’t quite yet Ostatus compliant, but it’s getting closer day-by-day. It’s under heavy development, with more than 35 committers contributing in the little more than a month it’s been available. It has well more than 6,000 users and will likely eclipse 10,000 before summer.

    Give rstat.us a try. I’m @colindean on there, and everywhere.

  11. […] Searls, che ho conosciuto alla conferenza Les Blogs: Blogs and Social Software di Parigi, dice che bisogna lasciare Twitter perché è diventato un’azienda e questo causa […]

  12. If, as has been stated by the excitable: “Twitter is Infrastructure” and “Twitter is a Utility” then it is both poor infrastructure and an unreliable Utility.

    The shocking contempt for the user experience (note, not customer, though many would pay from a pro service, it’s not on offer) in a business that relies on user-generated content is breathtakingly arrogant.

    Biz Stone’s recent statement on his blog that Twitter employees work nights and weekends begs the questions Why? and What are they working on? Why – because the company is well-funded and should be able to recruit professional network engineers by now. What are they working on – because _nothing_ is improving.

  13. Sadly, the word “(re)tweet” refers directly to twitter. In identi.ca, posts are generally called “(re)dents”.

  14. […] has become de facto infrastructure, and that’s bad, because Twitter is failing. … read more Doc Searls Weblog read more This entry was posted in Twitter. Bookmark the permalink. ← […]

  15. Thank you for sharing this .. the other day I heard on NPR that the private investors of twitter need it to make more money.. last year it “only” made 45 million in ads.. so now twitter is trying to figure a way but with all the 3rd party apps out there they are getting stuck and I do agree at this point other then spammers and some big names, twitter is becoming more and more useless.

  16. […] Let’s move Tweeting off Twitter. @Evan Promdromou offered help with that, via Status.net.Here’s the tweet count on that post. Also on Twitter Failings. […]

  17. tissit,

    “tweet” was a word long before Twitter showed up, and I don’t care if Twitter claims it as their own. Same goes for re-tweet. (I think “dent” and “re-dent” are also fine.)

  18. Doc, you might try Tweetdeck or Seesmit –other clients, and I don’t think either uses AIR.

  19. […] Let’s move tweeting off Twitter (blogs.law.harvard.edu) […]

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