Is Twitter the Next Myspace?


News broke yesterday that Twitter will soon make co-founder Jack Dorsey’s interim CEO appointment permanent. For some of us who’ve followed the company’s many ups and downs – mostly downs, as of late – the choice of Dorsey comes as no surprise, but the sooner the company makes it official, the better. There is work to be done.

Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) biggest problem, hands down, is that it’s hard to use, it’s not particularly engaging and it’s not at all clear what its benefit is. In other words, most users of the social media site have no idea what it is or why they should use it. Oddly enough, I’m one of them.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. That means I’ve been using it for seven years to promote my blog posts and columns. I’ve sent more than 5,000 tweets and have more than 10,000 followers. What’s strange is I have no idea why. No idea. None. Nada. Zilch.

And that is so uncharacteristic of me it isn’t funny. As a veteran and former senior executive of the high-tech industry going back more decades than I care to think about, I’ve been among the first to learn about and use a lot of the geeky stuff that everyone takes for granted these days.

Not only that, but I’m a disciplined and methodical user of technology. If I don’t see the value in it, I don’t use it. With one exception. Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve owned a lot of products that didn’t prove to be all that useful or were beaten out by competing technologies.

I’ve been the proud owner of a Sony Betamax, a Compaq Portable II that weighed 23 lbs, a business card reader, a $500 stand-alone flatbed scanner, a Panasonic transportable mobile phone that weighed 10 lbs, and several Walkman music players. I have boxes and boxes of old, unused PC software, floppy disks and backup tapes.

And, since I live in the mountains, I even have one of those enormous motorized satellite dishes that tracks a dozen or so satellites and gets countless stations and feeds through a crazy expensive receiver … which eventually crapped out and I could no longer find anyone to fix it. So I got DirecTV just in time for Super Bowl XXXII.

This is different. Everyone in the media world uses Twitter and so that, by default, makes me a Twitter user. And while it’s been loads of fun to follow and chronicle this company’s wild rollercoaster ride almost since its inception, as a user, it’s sort of left me baffled.

Even after all these years, I find Twitter’s identity and value to be uniquely elusive, especially among companies with $20 billion-ish market caps. I’m by no means a social media fan-boy, but I can pretty much tell you what every other site or application I use is all about, why I use it and how it benefits my work as a columnist or management consultant.

While I’m not much of a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) user in my personal life, I’m certainly aware that a billion or so people use it practically daily to share news, information and media with friends. And those who frequent my fan page are the most engaged audience for my writing anywhere, hands down.

And while I think LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) has become way too big, overbearing, and overrun with content for its own good, it’s still the world’s most popular site for making business connections. LinkedIn is the world’s resume depository. If you want to get hired, you have to be there. Period.

Instagram is for sharing photos. Snapchat is for sharing messages, pics and videos with friends without worrying about them coming back to haunt you someday. I can go on, but I think you get the point.

Now let’s talk about Twitter.

It’s touted as a breaking news site, and maybe it is for some but not for me. I have yet to find a way to organize my feeds in a way that allows me to efficiently aggregate and search for news on a topic, something I do every day. To be honest, I stopped looking at my Twitter feed ages ago. And I haven’t missed a thing.

Perhaps it’s big for stalking, I mean following famous socialites, actors, athletes and musicians, and that may be great for Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher and Lady Gaga, but for real people in the real world, I can’t think of a bigger waste of time.

I keep hearing that, as a Web property, Twitter has a lot of value. Maybe so, but even with shares trading near all-time lows, its still way too pricey to be acquired by Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) or Facebook. That’s pretty sad considering that Mark Zuckerberg bought WhatsApp – all 50 employees and no revenue – for $19 billion, more than Twitter’s value today.

Yup, Dorsey has his work cut out for him. If he can articulate what Twitter is and make it an engaging product for mainstream users, that’ll be one for the record books. If not, it’ll go down in history as another botched social media product like … what was that site called again? It’s on the tip of my tongue. Um, uh, … wait, I remember. MySpace.