People have been mourning the end of Twitter as we knew it for almost as long as there's been a Twitter
So help me, I love my fellow technology writers. But as a profession, we have a bizarre and morbid tick: We love to declare that things are dead when what we really mean is that we think it’s possible they’ve peaked. I wrote about the habit back in 2010, and linked to stories about the alleged deaths of the web, Macs, Microsoft Office, email, Firefox and other stuff that’s still with us and, in some cases, thriving.
The latest alarmists are the Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer, who have published “A Eulogy for Twitter“–which is, of course, just a fancy way of saying that Twitter is dead.
In this case, the signs of rigor mortis are even more tenuous than usual. About the only non-anecdotal symptom that LaFrance and Meyer provide is the fact that the service’s user growth is slowing. Mostly, their theory that “Twitter is entering its twilight” is based on them and their friends finding the conversation there less engaging than they once did.
The case that Twitter isn’t moribund, and probably won’t become so in the near future, doesn’t really need to be made. But Slate’s Will Oremus, a Twitter optimist, does so anyway, in a post that makes a good argument that the service is healthy in ways that can’t be completely measured using the typical vital statistics that people–especially Wall Street people–fixate on.
Personally, I have at least as much fun on Twitter as I ever did: I use it in much the same way as I did in 2008, and get much the same enjoyment out of it. But I’m careful not to extrapolate from my own positive experiences that it’s in great shape, period.
Except for the brevity imposed by the 140-character limit, Twitter, even more than most social networks, can be almost anything depending on how you use it and who you follow. Like a piece of blank paper, it’s an empty vessel we all fill up in different ways, which makes generalizations of any kind dangerous.
This I do know for sure: There’s something about Twitter that causes people to underestimate it to the point of believing that it’s dead meat. In March 2007–less than a year after Jack Dorsey sent the first tweet–Mat Balez wrote what may be the first obituary for the service:
I make no bones about my disdain for Twitter. I’ve commented far and wide about the inanity and potential danger of the tool, and even discussed some of the associated social repercussions on this blog. But I’d like to now go one step further, and predict its imminent supernova-like implosion.
A few months later, my friend Lance Ulanoff also predicted Twitter’s death, though he gave it a few years:
Twitter’s demise will certainly come before we hit 2011. It’s the perfect example of Internet flash paper, and I suspect it will shine as brightly and briefly as this favorite magician’s gimmick.
For just about Twitter’s entire history, people have been doing what LaFrance and Meyer do: say that Twitter isn’t as much fun as it used to be, that newer services are cooler, that they see ominous signs in their own Twitter streams that the whole thing is on the verge of collapse. And they’ve been doing it on Twitter itself. (Among many other things, it’s an awfully handy medium for complaining about Twitter.)
A selection of gloom-and-doom tweets, beginning in 2006, the year of Twitter’s founding:
thanks Mar, and is annoyed that Twitter jumped the shark before they got SMS working properly—
Lili Finn (@lilirose) December 05, 2006
Realising that Twitter may have been one of those "wow, that's great!" products that I've lost interest in rather quickly.—
David Talbot (@niceguydave) March 08, 2007
Some folks r saying that Twitter will be dead by end 2007.—
Ernest Khoo (@gremlin) March 15, 2007
Facebook allows SMS updates and has a status feed…. RIP, Twitter.—
Nick Baum (@nickbaum) April 12, 2007
I think Twitter has jumped the shark. The shiny is wearing off–people are moving on.—
Dossy Shiobara (@dossy) May 01, 2007
I need you all to sign up for Pownce now. It is better than Twitter.—
Adam Wygle (@Wygle) July 05, 2007
does anyone else think that facebook chat will kill twitter?—
Nick Foster (@fosta) April 24, 2008
Thinks this plurk thing is pretty snazzy, actually. I can see why people are dumping Twitter for it.—
Mackenzie Bush (@nerdhugger) June 12, 2008
Anybody else noticed Twiiter volume from the high profile valley people is way down? Has Twitter jumped the shark aleady?—
Bryan Menell (@bmenell) June 25, 2008
Anyway, at the rate people are leaving twitter for friendfeed, will only need one app soon :)—
(@markkemp) July 01, 2008
I've lost interest in updating Twitter. Why should I? Facebook is where I know people.—
Zach Petersen (@zpetersen) September 18, 2008
Magpie will destroy Twitter—
(@jpickett1968) October 31, 2008
thinks twitter got lame real fast.—
Christopher Aydin (@crsHOlic) February 13, 2009
I miss the old twitter when it was an exculsive little club without all the nasty spammers! I get over 10 follow requests per day from them!—
Michelle Muirhead (@ananyah) March 09, 2009
i think twitter is fading as quickly as it became popular… or is that just me?—
David Mink (@mink03) April 09, 2009
I used to like twitter more before all the hype, marketingspam and celebrity stuff. Really.—
Jonny Palermo (@TheGuyPalermo) April 17, 2009
apparently people are leaving twitter in drives… how very sad. twitter, i believe in you!!—
Chloe (@pickadily) May 10, 2009
I'm losing interest in Twitter. Why does everything turn into a marketing tool?—
Rustin Johnson (@starvinghog) May 11, 2009
twitter is slowly dying down. i feel like i'm at a party and everyone's slowly starting to leave or fall asleep <3—
(@alexfaace) May 26, 2009
Twitter has officially stopped being fun.—
The Ex Dave Turner (@olddaveturner) June 08, 2009
I think Twitter is going downhill. *looks at trending topics* I'm still around, just… less enthusiastic xD—
Shawn Curtis (@stormkitten) August 19, 2009
everybody is leaving twitter, so ill close my twitter sometime soon.—
Paula (@_LimaPaula_) October 18, 2009
Twitter is dying…Lame people dont even realize their lameness is killing this site. All good things come to an end—
Mars…™ (@FlyMrWhite) June 13, 2010
It’s possible that the warning signs LaFrance and Meyer have detected are more serious than the ones that cropped up in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. If it’s clear within a year or two that Twitter is a goner, they’ll look prescient. If not, no big deal. There are no repercussions when overexcited tech pundits write premature obituaries for a product, service or company–which is probably why so many of them have been doing it for so long.