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Twitter turned 10 years old yesterday and, amongst all of the ‘funniest tweets ever’ posts, there seemed to be an astonishing absence of articles which addressed the lack of evolution within social media platforms. A decade in technological terms is practically obsolete and, with a number of the majors in deep financial trouble, it begs the question; where is the next-gen?
Last October, original Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey returned to the company after a prolonged absence which had seen over 20 leading executives leave over the space of a few years. Dorsey was the first person to run the microblogging platform and is now the fourth CEO. The volatile and fluctuating management team had resulted in a tumultuous time for the Facebook rival, who found themselves floundering in the choppy waters of social media.
There is a lot to celebrate about Twitter. It allowed us a hitherto unseen glimpse into the minutiae of the human experience, as well as providing a real-time news and current affairs feed which stripped away a previously existing reliance on news channels and other media organizations. It became the place to learn about celebrity deaths (with Michael Jackson’s demise being reported on the platform hours before it hit mainstream media), celebrity diets and, well, basically any mundane, fascinating or ridiculous thought a celebrity could have.
But those were the early years. From 2006-2010, Twitter went through a significant alteration; that from a desktop platform to a mobile one. With the ubiquitousness of smartphones, social media apps became easier to use and, as a result, more popular. But with that popularity came no further control or organization, meaning that Twitter became a ceaseless onslaught of information, with the vast majority of it being useless, self-aggrandising or simply terrifying. Trolling and bullying became a huge problem on the network, and a lack of advanced functionality meant that it became rapidly dated without realising it. A flawed promotional tool, it still remains one of the number one pieces of advice to startups, creatives and fledgling entrepreneurs, as if ‘getting on Twitter’ will suddenly open you up to unlimited customers and untold amounts of income. The truth is that it takes an incredible amount of work to build up an audience on Twitter. Limitations on follow numbers and the sheer mass of unfiltered content means that it is an often cumbersome and time-consuming method of promotion.
It seems that others are noticing this trend too. Twitter performed in a very unspectacular way for the first quarter of 2016, failing to gain more users. That’s not the worst part; it is projected that the company will not turn over a profit until at least 2019. Some might say that this is a result of a resistance to change or alter the way in which Twitter works, especially in the face of difficulty, competition and diminishing public interest. Soon, it is inevitable that Twitter will become a wasteland of failing businesses and those too self-obsessed to realise that the party’s over.
A quick glance at the following infographic that charts Twitter’s greatest achievements showcases the fact that it’s not exactly promoting the enlightenment or betterment of society, but reads more like the journal of a teenager’s likes and fancies.
So where to from here?
Instagram, the photo sharing site that was purchased by Facebook for $1 Billion in 2012, is set to become fate of the dreaded algorithm which saw Facebook select and display the content that it ‘thinks’ a user want to see, as opposed to a chronological stream of posts from the pages and people who a user has actually followed. This remains the biggest bugbear for the majority of users, and will certainly be something at the forefront of developers’ minds as they seek to advance the existing platforms.
The primary lacking factor in all of the major entities is that of categorization and structure. Algorithms are not necessarily geared towards this, for they focus more on sponsored content and the actions of those with whom users most recently interacted.
Secondly, there is no filtration to compliment the categorisation on any of these networks, and with good reason. They want to keep users scrolling through their content. The more time someone spends on the site or app, the more advertising revenue they generate, and with Facebook currently boasting 1.6 billion users, that’s a considerable amount of revenue indeed.
The fact remains that, for now at least, we’re stuck with the big three, but if history is anything to go by, it won’t be long until someone figures out a new and exciting method of not only bringing people together, but allowing them to actually gain something from it at the same time.
It will be exciting to see what that may be.