Twitter celebrates its 5th anniversary today. The company, which has recently taken to annoying its users with the #dickbar and is working hard on alienating its developer ecosystem, decided to mark its birthday with a celebrity-studded video featuring Piers Morgan, Snoop Dogg, Hillary Clinton and Serena Williams, among many others. In it, Snoop Dogg tells us why he follows Martha Stewart, Piers Morgan explains that his show prep largely consists of checking out what his guests are saying on Twitter (which explains a lot, I think) and a musician named Julian Perretta says that he uses Twitter as a way of “learning what [he] should do” (which also explains a lot).
More so than anything else, though, this video tells us something about how the folks at Twitter HQ are positioning their service for a mainstream audience. Twitter, according to this video, is about following celebrities. It’s a not a social network. It’s more about who you follow than what you share. In the blog post accompanying this video, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone notes that “the people who use Twitter have made it what it is today, and on our fifth birthday, it’s the people that make Twitter special who we are celebrating.” So who is making Twitter so special and who is worth celebrating? Judging from this video, it’s celebrities like Snoop Dogg, not the millions of regular people who use the service every day. When Twitter tells you that it wants to help you “discover your world,” it seems to assume that your world mostly revolves around Snoop Dogg and Hillary Clinton.
Losing Touch With the Early Adopters?
It’s hard not to think that Twitter is slowly losing touch with many of its users. First the useless #dickbar (which somebody at Twitter HQ must have thought was a good idea) then a notice to developers that it’s time to stop developing new Twitter clients, and now this anniversary video, which for the most part ignores all the typical ways in which Twitter’s core group of users uses the service.
Looking forward, we can probably expect more of this from Twitter, as it tries to gain a larger mainstream audience and continues to search for a viable business model. If Facebook is the site that helps you keep in touch with your friends and family, then Twitter wants to be the service that help you keep tabs on your favorite celebrities.
Compare that to this draft of a promo video Twitter (then still known as Twttr) commissioned in 2006:
I didn't see any mention of third party apps in the start up video from 2006, but I did hear them mentioned in the new video. Twitter has been consistently great IMO since I started using the service back in mid aught eight. Conveying the simplistic complexity of twitter isn't easy and I think the video did it really well.