In an attempt to stop the rot setting in at Twitter, the microblogging site has announced it may introduce a partially algorithmic timeline, after it was revealed that the iconic social media platform has failed to grow its monthly active user total in Q4 2015.
In the final quarter of 2015, Twitter had an average of 320 million monthly users, which is exactly the same number as it had in the previous quarter, leading to many market commentators speculating that this stunted growth could be the beginning of the end for one of the founding fathers of the social media era.
Twitter is introducing an algorithmic tweak, aimed at providing a kind of editorially controlled ‘best-of’, which will arrange tweets based on relevance rather chronology.
Inevitably, the pressure to monetize and keep up with the likes of Facebook forces innovative platforms to re-think the features which made them so popular in the first place. Twitter are even considering ditching the iconic ‘@’ feature and doing away with the character limit in an attempt to stop the shrinking user base.
Twitter exists in a time and space when the digital media arms race uses the one billion user count as the benchmark. Facebook has raced ahead with three user services reaching the 1 billion mark. Google owns seven billion user services.
Unless Twitter can find a route to the billion user mark, its days as a popular social media platform may be numbered – hence the scramble for change within the walls of Twitter HQ.
It is perhaps too early to predict with any certainty – as the social media era as we know it has only been with us for a decade or so – but it could be that Twitter’s apparent demise is an example of the natural decline in these platforms, and that their time in the sun is necessarily brief. Like digital mayflies, social media platforms’ short life-spans are needed to make way for the next generation – this is exactly how social media has evolved.
Can Twitter Survive?
To meddle with the spontaneous, random and often fairly meaningless dross which naturally populates our twitter feeds is to fundamentally miss the point of a social network. The reason we follow certain individuals and share particular content is that, as social creatures who need to feel part of a group, we strive to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals whose world-view chimes with our own. Interfere with this process with an editorial algorithmic tweak and Twitter could find itself losing the hook which made it so popular in the first place.