THE BLOG

Twitter Is Digging Its Own Grave

05/04/2015 20:14 BST | Updated 05/06/2015 10:59 BST

With 284million users worldwide, Twitter is at a crossroads. It needs to innovate to stay relevant, but instead it's just copying Facebook. Its downfall can be avoided.

The main appeal of Twitter is that it gives us a slightly voyeuristic opportunity to gaze into the lives of celebrities, Z-listers, and occasionally our friends, and it's also loved by journalists as a way to quickly keep up with current events, often filing breaking stories quicker than any newswire.

But it's a sad state of affairs for the micro-blogging giant, which has grown massively since its humble beginnings in 2006. They're looking for ways to monetise the site, because the moneymen are getting antsy and want a return on investment. They've tried promoted tweets in your timeline, they've tried putting paid hashtags in your trends bar, and now they're rolling out adverts on profiles.

Yet still, they fail to make the money they need and struggle to compete with the ever-looming omnipresence of Facebook. Twitter is, sadly, becoming irrelevant quite fast. Social media is a fickle mistress, as we've learnt with MySpace almost instantly going from flavour of the month to haemorrhaging users. All the kids are being driven away from Facebook because their parents are on there, but they're not going to Twitter.

The bigwigs at Twitter's California headquarters probably wish they were, but the reality is young people are choosing apps like Instagram to communicate, leaving Twitter in a state of limbo trying desperately to stay relevant.

They even once considered making themselves more "Facebook-y" by getting rid of retweets and mentions in favour of shares and likes - but that's their biggest mistake.

MySpace's downfall was copying Facebook in its final hours, easing the transition for anyone who hadn't already switched. It's now completely changed into a semi-successful music website (because there's not enough of those kicking around already).

They're also experimenting with a "While You Were Away" function, essentially copying Facebook's News Feed and pushing more popular content to the top of your Timeline. That's not what Twitter is for. People like Twitter because it's a constant stream of quick-fire points about what's going on in the world. If they continue to turn into Facebook, they'll go the way of MySpace trying to pull themselves out of a painful slump and failing miserably.

Nobody who uses Facebook and Twitter will continue to use both if they're doing to same thing. They'll dump one and keep using the one all their friends are on. Which will always be Facebook.

If they truly want to stay relevant and prevent a mass exodus, they need to go a different way. And that's not by doing what everyone else is doing - copying Snapchat - it's by looking to the past and stealing from the future.

Facebook is looking into ways of hosting content on its site, for example allowing people to read blog posts like these without giving traffic to the original website. But that's going to piss off other websites. Twitter can monopolise and expand on this idea by channelling one of the internet's earliest fads - RSS feeds.

If all tweets with links came with an optional preview more like a truncated RSS post, offering large scale and attractive snapshots (but not full articles), it could still host ads, still keep content providers happy, and increase the amount of time people spend on their site. The monetisation prospects are endless, and it would be true innovation rather than imitation.