Does the Twitter Whale = Twitter Fail?
For now, Twitter remains untouched on its journey up the road as a Social Network Superstar.
Twitter’s next big hurdle on its ascent may be its biggest to date: turning a profit. Twitter needs to start making money. Ideas are plentiful, but execution remains to be seen. Everyone knows it; even Twitter’s brass have fallen just short of claiming 2009′s objective will be to make money.
But seemingly unnoticed, the frequent overload of Twitter servers seems to be the ‘elephant’ in the room that may hinder efforts to create and maintain revenue.
As recently as yesterday, Twitter’s faithful got a wakeup call that Twitter’s ‘Fail Whale’ was still circling the parking lot. It began by stalling out on avatars, tweets and DMs and finished by crashing down the service for 45 minutes.
With my own Twitter usage I have experienced some of the site’s flakiness. If Twitter can’t abolish all potential Fail Whales, will it ever be able to capture the market confidence necessary to make the money its popularity seems to promise?
It is important to point out that Twitter has made significant strides to drive the Whale off of its site completely. What at first seemed to be glitches that Twitter could accept as necessary evils have been eliminated. But as the site’s thoughts turn to profits from its users and advertisers the question arises: will any site stall-outs will be accepted?
As long as Twitter remains a free service, occasional glitches are easily overlooked. After all, what do users really have to complain about? Just about the only thing users have to lose is time and, with the affinity out there for Twitter, it seems to be something with which users are willing to part.
An example of this can be seen in a recent quote by Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch. Of the recent 45 minutes of downtime, he said it was, “not too shabby”. I know I have personally thrown fits, canceled accounts and sent scathing e-mails for considerably less.
As soon as money becomes involved, expectations rise dramatically, especially with a site like Twitter. When services go from free to something that users are paying for, they will suddenly have much heightened expectations. The service was always there. Service you can count and rely upon is what users believe they are paying for. No matter how much allegiance users have with Twitter, this will be the case when they start paying their money.
If you were a Twitter users paying for premium value-added services, would you be willing to tolerate glitches such as disappearing tweets, avatars and DMs? Or, if you were an advertiser with Twitter would you be willing to accept that your ads weren’t getting viewed as often as expected due to slow and unreliable services? Certainly not.
As Twitter enters the commercial phase it must be cognizant of the fact that making sure its Whale gets harpooned will not be priority of a technical nature, but rather of a commercial nature. How it handles and prioritizes its commercial aspects will become vital to Twitter’s success.