Whither Twitter? It’s No Google, and It’s No Facebook

Slate writer Farhad Manjoo considers Twitter and recent claims, by its founders and folks like Mike Arrington, that the microblogging service everyone’s talking about (but no one has clue what it is) is the next Google-killer.

That’s quite a turnaround from how most folks used to view Twitter — as a joke:

It wasn’t too long ago that Twitter was the butt of Silicon Valley jokes. It makes no money, and until recently its chief contribution to the culture was its much-displayed service-outage logo, the “fail whale.” Twitter is growing extremely quickly—traffic leaped by more than 700 percent in 2008—and lately it has captured the attention of just about everyone in politics and the media. But despite its growth, it’s still a niche product: Twitter.com gets about 6 million American visitors a month, according to traffic-monitoring firms. Facebook beats it by a factor of 10 and Google by a factor 20; even the Huffington Post bests Twitter.

That’s not to say Twitter doesn’t have a great future ahead of it. As more people join it and as we get better tools to analyze the cacophony of conversations taking place there, we’ll find it increasingly useful when news breaks or when we need instant feedback from our friends. What’s unclear now is how such a service will make any money—and how it can transform itself in order for that to happen. It’s possible that Twitter could do very well—but probably not as a social network, and probably not as a search engine.

More reality check from Manjoo here.

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