Friday, January 22, 2010

What Happened to Twitter

There has been some reports of Twitter's growth slowing in recent months. ReadWrite web reports some HubSpot research which shows Twitter's growth slowing to merely 3.5% month on month growth in October; down from 12% in March 09. But it all depends what you are measuring. It seems unlikely that the Twitter investors are getting anxious. HubSpot is measuring new users and followers and the really interesting change is that Twitter usage is growing very fast still, but most of this growth is not on but in the Twitter ecosystem, which includes the mobile space, and other social services such as Facebook. Fred Wilson has a good posting about the difference between and the Twitter ecosystem. Think of it as the proverbial iceberg, with only emerging above sea level. The hidden, 'submerged', Twitter seems to be growing like crazy: and as web services continue to broadcast to billions of mobile phones it is going to carry on growing. As Wilson says:

My point is this. You can talk about and then you can talk about the Twitter ecosystem. One is a web site. The other is a fundamental part of the Internet infrastructure. And the latter is 3-5x bigger than the former and that delta is likely to grow even larger. vs the Twitter Ecosystem.

Exact Editions is fundamentally a database driven web service, providing access to books and magazines, most of the action happens on our web servers. But in our own much smaller way, we have also noticed that our growth now is spurting in ways that are hard to measure as more of the Exact Editions ecosystem is working in a devolved fashion away from our servers. We have had a rush of users of the new Music Week App in the last 10 days: the downloads of this free app will have an impact on our bandwidth costs this month. But it is hard to know what happens with those downloads once they have been sync-ed to the iPhone (there are various indirect measures from which one can infer activity and we will increasingly rely on them). It seems probable already that a large part of the activity on our publications is happening in 'client' nodes, holding sync-ed issues, where our server logs and analytics gives no reliable data on usage. If free apps take off this could explode. As Fred Wilson says, the delta is going to grow.

This burgeoning penumbra of eco-systems associated with multiple and various web services will surely lead to a more of an 'organic' view of the web, with each web service and each individual distributable app collecting its own 'clients' within a cellular membrane. I resolve to stop thinking of the web as a net. It is getting to be more like frogspawn than a spider's web. We live in interesting times.

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