How popular is Twitter? It's so popular that some would suggest it's worth billions of dollars. But as many of us who lived through the first .com bust know all too well, it's disappointingly easy to take something that looks like it has a future filled with success and turn it into fail.

In the case of Twitter, I think there are 5 things that the company's management needs to do to avoid that fate.

Can spam. Spam is the bane of Twitter and the problem is only getting worse. Spammers are getting more sophisticated and Twitter seems almost helpless to stop them. While Twitter spam may not be enough to repel Twitter's 'power' users, I think the spam problem is a real problem for more casual users.

Secure itself. Security issues continue to plague Twitter and unfortunately, most of them are its own doing. Some of the most serious Twitter security threats, for instance, are a result of Twitter's engineers not applying basic best practices for dealing with user input. If Twitter is to avoid becoming the biggest threat to the internet since Jessica Biel, it will have to deal with its security shortcomings ASAP.

Launch a business model.
Twitter isn't exactly young anymore. It launched in 2006 and has gone through three rounds of funding. At this stage of the game, Twitter needs to start doing something -- anything -- to make money. While many entrepreneurs prefer to err on the side of 'getting it right the first time', the reality is that most startups develop a successful business model through an iterative process.

In Twitter's case, getting something out there sooner than later is especially important because most of the value being built around Twitter is being built by third parties (developers, consultants, etc.). The most successful are quickly establishing themselves by filling voids that Twitter is capable of filling itself. If Twitter doesn't get moving, it may find itself with leftovers.
Innovate. There's a lot to love about Twitter's open API; in my opinion it's actually one of the reasons Twitter is so popular. But there's a problem: third party developers are currently responsible for much of the innovation on Twitter. From desktop clients to brand management solutions, the really interesting Twitter applications aren't being built by Twitter.

That's okay, to a certain extent. No company can do everything by itself and there are lots of things being built around Twitter that one would never expect Twitter to develop internally. But if all the innovation on Twitter is the work of others, Twitter will eventually lose out.

Give up on search. I expect I'll take some flak for this but I'm going to say it: getting value out of consumer search is going to be as easy as herding cats. Therefore, Twitter should dismiss the notion that it's going to build a valuable consumer search product anytime soon, which is what so many have suggested it do. Note that this is not to say that Twitter isn't amassing some valuable data. The problem is that it's amassing even more worthless data. One need only look at the trending topics that fill up the Twitter homepage to realize this.

Twitter is on top of the world right now. It's one of the most talked-about (or 'hyped') consumer internet startups out there. And it deserves a lot of the attention it receives. From customer service to SEO, Twitter is making an impact. But as with most hot startups, it faces significant challenges. An inability or unwillingness to recognize them and to take action to solve them could lead to fail.

Patricio Robles

Published 2 September, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (4)


guy stephens

Some excellent points. I think it is the inevitable 'growing pains' that come with growing up.

almost 9 years ago



Well written, wonderful article, with great points. Myself a social media journalist, for local and mass media, my primary focus Twitter. I agree, for the most part. Spam, if not controlled, will lead to the failure of this shifting media revolution. Currently, I'm multitasking with Trending Topics and it is rediculous the amount of spam I am seeing (in every topic and in every refreshed update). Opening with this point, you have hit the nail on the head, again I couldn't agree more. Seconly, I do not know enough in regards to security so I don't feel comfortable commenting. However, I do believe Twitter is highly open to such attacks -- too open. I say this referring back to the recent DDoS, this attack not only shut Twitter down for hours but ceased functioning at a normal pace for days after. Third, Twitter needs a structured business plan and I'm hearing talks of such more and more as I dive deeper into my journalism. I do believe that Twitter plans to launch it's own 'Twitter label' products that I have seen at Twitter headquarters. This would be successful only to an extent as the appeal is to those who are loyal Twitter users. I'm also hearing about a movie and reality show, both failure of ideas I think, as much of a fail as sponcered tweets that will only lead to more spam via this beloved network. On the topic of applications, I agree that Twitter has yet to put one out, yet I work with 100s each day. These applications are for our use, be it created or not by Twitter. Twitter doesn't have the business plan or revenue to do so, at this time and to try I believe would fail. I don't see this as a huge deal when useful applications exist, we use the application we don't use the creator. To close, I highly disagree with search killing Twitter as I use it daily, respectfully, I see your point in the quality of information. Personally, I use search not just limited to researched info but for communication as I build a larger network (of useful people by my own selection), to quench my thirst for knowledge in regards to daily current events and what's being disccussed on social media, and also for the humor in that it's evident that users will find brutally moronic information from time to time. I do think it benifits people such as me, I use this daily (almost hourly) but see why it wouldn't benifit those who never use such. Again, great article!

almost 9 years ago



Great article. Twitter's big let down is that once you are registered with Twitter, you need never use the site again. Secondly, as you rightly put it, the functionality of twitter is being developed elsewhere and all the time, Twitter gets all consumed by its fixation on search.

almost 9 years ago



I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


almost 9 years ago

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