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The Next Twitter?

The Next Twitter?

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Published by Winston Ross
A story about the future of social networking, originally penned for Newsweek. Feedback? Winstonross.wordpress.com
A story about the future of social networking, originally penned for Newsweek. Feedback? Winstonross.wordpress.com

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Published by: Winston Ross on Jul 16, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/30/2012

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By WINSTON ROSSFacebook is for photos of the kids, Twitter for blurting out pearls of marketingwisdom to his 613 followers, Linkedin for electronic schmoozing with potentialbusiness partners, Myspace for teenagers and rock bands.Jascha Kaykas-Wolff understands as well as anybody what each of the Big Foursocial networking sites means to him. It
ʼ
s whoever can figure out a way to combineall these bookmarks into one place, so he
ʼ
s not leaping from one cyberspace hub tothe next; whoever can help him root out new groups of potential clients forWebtrends, the Portland, Ore.,-based company at which he works as vice presidentof marketing — that person may have discovered the next big thing in socialnetworking, while at the same time relegating some current online behemoth intoFriendster oblivion (remember Friendster?)Such is the dynamic, even frantic world of communication on the web in 2009. InJanuary, the blogosphere, social media nerds and your co-workers could not shut upabout Twitter, even if they were only complaining about the frequency of banal 140-character updates from people who thought it worth sharing with the world thatthey
ʼ
d just returned from lunch.By April, Twitter had nearly 20 million unique visitors, up from 1.5 million a yearbefore that. Now the web is abuzz with speculation that Twitter is nothing more thana passing fad, a theory supported by the latest round of Nielsen research that shows60 percent of its users don
ʼ
t return after their initial signup.Maybe that news will make Facebook less desperate to catch up to Twitter. In itsown bid to avoid obsolescence, Facebook cranked out a jarring revamp to the waypeople use the site in March, moving this over here and that over there in whatseemed to some outraged users to be an attempt to copy Twitter
ʼ
s fluid, micro-blogging format and to others just a way to mess with their minds.The thinking among social networking entrepreneurs seems to be this: change,quickly, or die. Already, bloggers around the world are proclaiming the imminentdemise of Myspace — a site that once dominated all chatter about social networking— even though the reports of that demise are, at least statistically, greatlyexaggerated. Myspace still sees 55 million unique visitors each day.“Nothing bad happened to Myspace; it
ʼ
s still one of the most popular social networkson the web. There
ʼ
s a class division, a stereotype that Myspace is trashy,” saidJustin Kistner, a Portland, Ore.-based social media strategist. “But most of Americais trashy.”Changes in social networking come at breakneck speed, and the spoils clearly go to
 
they who can adapt the quickest. But what is the next Twitter? Will it kill off the oldTwitter? What
ʼ
s the difference between a fad and a long-term trend in a mediumwhose “storefronts” can disappear as quickly as a site administrator decides it
ʼ
s timeto pull the plug? What do we want from these web sites today, even if we don
ʼ
t knowwe want it?The answer to those questions could mean money out of thin air for the next savvyentrepreneur. Myspace may have lost 9 million unique visitors in the period betweenApril 2008 and 2009, but its founders had already walked away from the site with$580 million, after selling it in 2005 to Rupert Murdoch
ʼ
s News Corp. There
ʼ
s seriouscash involved in the business of connecting people on the web.But how? To this point, the tack most developers seem to take is to create hugeamounts of hype, draw in millions of users and then figure out how to make moneyoff of it. This is a delicate dance, because what sells is also what sells out. If youhaven
ʼ
t checked Myspace in awhile, you might be surprised at how bombarded youget by hi-def trailers for Terminator Salvation or a push to check out Electrik Red
ʼ
s“exclusive” album premier. The login is almost an afterthought.“A lot of the things these sites have to do to make money are the same kinds ofthings that drive users away,” said Ian Muir, a web developer with Manchester, N.H.-based Amplified Studios. “Part of the reason Twitter has so many users is there
ʼ
s noads, no noise. They
ʼ
re also not making any money. Facebook, as they
ʼ
ve brought inmore ads, they make more money per user but their growth rate has slowed waydown.”The challenge, say experts in the field, is for social networking sites to keep usersloyal, adapt to what they want and turn a profit, without any one of those goalsmucking up the other. That in mind, here
ʼ
s what you can expect in the next wave ofpokes and tweets and annoying quizzes:One site to rule them all: Or at least, check them all. Tweetdeck, an application thatlets you scan Twitter and Facebook feeds in the same glance, is a start in thisdirection, as is Friendfeed, a real-time aggregator that combines news feeds, socialnetworking updates and blog entries into one platform. OpenID looks promising too,in that it lets people create a single login and password to gain access to myriaddifferent sites. But there
ʼ
s not really a widely used monster aggregator program orsite or application out there at this point that lets you pull up one page and see on iteverything you want to see at once: your email, your tweets, your favorite Newsweekcorrespondents, etc.“It
ʼ
s definitely social plumbing,” Kistner said. “The universal communications clientthat exists a layer above Facebook and text messaging.”

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