Has Twitter ruined Twitter?

Has Twitter ruined Twitter?

Over the past few weeks, Twitter’s been all over Twitter. It launched the new (and impressive) Moments tool; it got a new CEO (well, half of one); he fired 336 people; and pretty much everyone started talking about what was going right and wrong with the company, not least after reading this impassioned piece on Medium by Umair Haque.

I don’t think Twitter’s doomed at all. But I do think Twitter as we’ve known itis dying. And the verdict will be both murder and suicide — on the part of both Twitter’s management and its keenest users.

Twitter became popular, in essence, because it was where the cool people came to hang out. Celebrities and journalists came to talk to their fans, and each other.

For British journalists like me, for example, it was a godsend — it provided a way for us all to bitch and gossip and stroke each other’s egos in a way that we hadn’t had since the move out of Fleet Street scattered the big newspapers to the four winds. Even better — it turned out there were quite a few people out there who didn’t actually work in journalism, but were still just as funny and clever as us hacks, and often even more so. It was like being one of those great pubs where you’re pretty much always guaranteed to bump into someone you know.

What changed, as Umair and other disillusioned tweeters have said, was the signal to noise ratio. Partly, this is down to the problem of abuse that Umair identified — the way that the seemingly infinite horde of trolls and zealots and bores would intrude into conversations or shout you down (especially if you were a woman).

But there was a stylistic change as well. Journalists, and news organisations in general, noticed that Twitter was a good way to pick up traffic. Well, not traffic as such: a report back in January claimed that it’s responsible for driving less than 1 per cent of traffic to sites, compared with roughly 25 per cent for Facebook. Still, Twitter links remained important because it was a good way to reach an influential audience — plus, people often go on to repost the same links on Facebook, where the traffic magic happens.

Gradually, over time, people worked out the hierarchy of attention. A tweet like this wouldn’t do that well:

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