Challenges Twitter Will Face
As I think about Twitter more deeply, one thing that jumps out to me is that in each wave of messaging technology, the old way is supplanted by a new way that is faster, more interactive, and has less noise. And then noise inevitably comes again and everyone moves to a new tool with less noise. This is the boom and bust cycle of messaging tools on the Web. Twitter is the new "new tool" but inevitably, as Twitter gains broader adoption the noise will come. I see several near-term challenges for Twitter as a service, and for the community of Twitter users:
Spam. So far I have not encountered much real, deliberate, spam on Twitter. The community does a good job of self-policing, and the spammers haven't figured out how to co-opt it. Most of what people call spam on Twitter is inadvertent from what I can tell. But the real spammers are coming and that is going to be a serious challenge for Twitter's relatively simple social networking and messaging model.What is the Twitter community going to do when all the spam and noise inevitably arrives?
Mainstream Users. Currently Twitter seems a bit like the early Web, and the early blogosphere -- it is mostly an elite group of influencers and early adopters who have some sense of connectedness and decorum. But what happens when everyone else joins Twitter? What happens when the mainstream users arrive and fill Twitter up with more voices, and potentially more noise (at least from the perspective of the early users of Twitter) than it contains today.
Keeping Up. Another challenge that I see as a new user of Twitter is that it is very hard to keep up with what so many people are tweeting effectively and I get the feeling I miss a lot of important things because I simply don't have time to monitor Twitter at all hours. I need a way to see just the things that are really important, popular or likely to be of interest to me, instead of everything. I'm monitoring a number of Twitter searches in my Twitter client and this seems to help. I also monitor Twitter searches and certain people's tweets via RSS. But it's a lot to keep up with.
Conversation Overload. Secondly its difficult to manage conversations or to follow many conversations because there is no threading in the Twitter clients I have tried. Without actual threading it is quite hard to follow the flow of conversations, let alone multiple simultaneous conversations. It seems like a great opportunity for visualizaton as well -- for example I would love a way to visually see conversations grow and split into sub-threads in real-time.
Integration Overload. As an increasing number of external social networks, messaging systems, and publishing engines all start to integrate with Twitter, there will be friction. What are the rules for how services can integrate with Twitter -- beyond the API level, I am talking about the user-experience level.
How many messages, of what type, for what purpose can an external service send into Twitter? Are there standards for this that everyone must abide by or is it optional?
The potential for abuse, or for Twitter to just fill up to the point of being totally overloaded with content is huge. It appears inevitable that this will happen. Will a new generation of Twitter clients with more powerful filtering have to be generated to cope with this?
These are certainly opportunities for people making Twitter clients. Whatever Twitter app solves these problems could become very widely used.