For anyone interested in the ups and downs of Twitter, the last week or so has held plenty of intrigue. First, rumors swirled that the famously of-the-moment social-media service would leave its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it firehose experience behind in favor of showing users tweets curated by algorithm. The Twitterverse responded by making the #RIPTwitter hashtag an instant viral sensation. CEO Jack Dorsey tried to assure his restive user base that Twitter “is real-time,” but on Wednesday the company said yes, it is in fact presenting users with an algorithmic time line to help catch them up after they’ve been away from the service.
On the same day, Twitter reported its earnings, disclosing that the number of people using its platform shrank in the final quarter of 2015. For a company born in the “take over the world” ethos of Silicon Valley, this was seen as dire news indeed.
But while many wondered about how long Twitter has left to live, especially in the face of perhaps direct competition from the social-media behemoth Facebook, Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times had a different take: It’s time for Twitter to start thinking smaller.
As a Twitter power user, Manjoo makes no bones about his bias in favor of keeping the service around. He even declares it, unequivocally, “the world’s most important social network.”
It may not be that, but Manjoo’s proposal of convincing Twitter not to try to rival giants like Facebook and Google makes a lot of sense. There is evidence that it simply isn’t built for such wide adoption—and what’s wrong with being a company worth $10 billion (which Twitter still is, even in these dark days)?
If Dorsey still dreams of adding a zero to his company’s market capitalization, he may very well attempt to reinvent a service that still counts more than 300 million people as monthly users. If he does, he might satisfy investors with a resumption of rapid growth. Or he might fail. The worry that Manjoo and many other have is that either way, a very popular, powerful form of online expression risks being weakened or killed off.