Is Twitter Useless After All?

Last Updated May 29, 2009 3:51 PM EDT

I have seen the future of Twitter, and it is Google Wave -- which trumps Tweeting by allowing "the merging of documents, feeds, photos, e-mail, instant messaging, [and] event planning" in real-time.

Twitter is many things, I suppose, but one of its highly-touted functions is to give its users a sense of the temperature of the Web, an immediate and almost visual sense of what topics of conversation are hottest and most vital. Right now, the hottest topics shown under Twitter's "Trending Topics" are "three words after sex," "things mummy said," "lies girls tell," and "TGIF."

Robin Wauters thinks it's a shame that:

Today, when you look at Twitter's trending topics, you'll notice that the large majority of trends are memes started by a single user or a group of users, with the main goal offering entertainment rather than spreading information.
I don't think it's a shame -- I think it's par for the course that something like Twitter would lose value once it grew too large. In effect, it's become MySpace.

So the value proposition of Twitter shrinks back down to being able to broadcast (blog-cast?) to a self-selecting group of people, and to receive messages from them as well. That's pretty useful, but Google Wave accomplishes this in a much more compelling because it allows users to add context. Content (such as stuff contained in documents and other communication tools) is context; a moment in time, which is all that Twitter provides, is not context.

One of the most promising uses for Twitter was the ability for the likes of Comcast, Dell and Starbucks to connect the service to their call center applications and monitor issues raised by their customers in real time. But that will only matter if enough people continue using Twitter, and the guessing here is that users will migrate to other, more compelling Web services that they can customize according to their interests and contexts.

Twitter itself, however, might find its TV deal got canceled before ever making a pilot episode.

  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek,, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator,, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.