Editorial: Twitter Is Not A Social Network
So Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sat down for a conversation with All Things D's Peter Kafka at D: Dive Into Media on Monday night. They discuss the recent outrage against Google's 'Search plus your world.' However, in his calm response, he answers another question we've been asking: exactly how will Twitter be defined?
They've never competed in the same field as Facebook and Google+ (not a bad thing). They are tackling the concept of networking a little differently, due to different user habits. Costolo claims that over 40% of active users never tweet, opting instead to use it as a source of information.
As the CEO listed off a few examples that liken the system more to comparisons with radio broadcasting: the influential few broadcasting content to an audience, and engaging select followers in discussion, it's here that a realisation occurred.
Twitter is, was, and will not be a social network. We don't use it socially.
The definition of social networking has not been to recreate your social life, rather be an extension of a subset of behaviours, such as a wide breadth of discussion between your friends and sharing content between your select group. While Twitter has all these options instilled into it, using the same metaphor of the service becoming a modernised version of the radio, if the use of it is reserved for information consumption, then that's not really a socially networked community.
Of course, taking it from the thoroughly active userbase also: presenting information, or sending a communicae with your two cents about the information to said information curator. While this presents some possibly active participatory ideals that come with the territory, the multi-directional communication model of it is both a blessing for extending the reach of your voice; but also the grounds for baking eliticism into the system, and not making things entirely social.
Going back to the radio, the service was limited in social communication, allowing for a few select callers to have their say on the show. This is the same case, as a dialogue is never developed. An isolated tweet is sent, which doesn't add or discuss a point that another person has made. You just send your two cents to an influencer, who is selective about who he/she responds to.
This is, of course, just one person's thoughts on Twitter, and not a criticism of the service in anyway at all; but after Costolo's eye-opening statistic of just how 'active' Twitter users are, can you really say you use the service to talk to your friends? Or is that more of a Facebook thing for you? More of a 'social network' thing.
A different definition is needed.