Twitter is a 1978 Fax Machine – Metcalfe’s Law and The Twitter Nielsen Data
May 2nd, 2009 by
First things first: this post is a bit of inside baseball – it may be conceptually interesting but it likely won’t help you market your business.
What’s interesting to me about the recent Nielsen data regarding “Twitter Quitters” is that it makes a prediction based on current data without looking at how this technology is like others before it. Surely Nielsen
doesn’t have data on adoption of all technologies since the beginning of time, but if they thought a little harder they might find some similarities. Or perhaps they just want the attention of controversy.
states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.
The most common illustration of this is the fax machine. One fax machine = paperweight, two fax machines = dialog, ubiquitous fax machines = global communications in the pre-email era.
So what’s the point?
My contention is this: Twitter (per the Nielsen data) is a 1978 fax machine. If you had one you thought you were really cool, but the reality is you were probably only impressing yourself.
If you’re not aware of the concern, here’s a little background:
- Twitter Quitters Post Roadblock to Long-Term Growth
- Retention Problem for Twitter?
- Proof That Nielsen is Wrong; Twitter’s Retention Rate is Not 40%
I mean think about it. If you’re not one who is naturally tapped into online communication you sign up, cruise around without an instruction manual or map and it’s boring. “Where to now?” you must think. Then the phone rings, the teapot whistles or the dog barks and you’re outta there.
Unless you’re already in the know it’s hard to find the great resources there are out there:
It’s no wonder there’s a 60% dropoff rate.
If you believe TechCrunch, at the end of April there were a few more than 1 million users of Twitter with only around 200,000 really active.
From TC :
- Total Users: 1+ million
- Total Active Users: 200,000 per week
- Total Twitter Messages: 3 million/day
So let’s look at that in context. With around 1 million users worldwide 40% of whom are in the U.S. that means that only about 400,000 U.S. folks are on twitter.
So… if you’re not one of those 400,000 you’re one of the other 299,600,000, or thereabouts, U.S. folks who aren’t yet on Twitter. That means you’re not one of the 13/100ths of 1 percent who are already hip.
That’s a really small number. I mean really small. You might be lonely.
So, I come back to likening Twitter to a 1978 fax machine. Currently Twitter lacks mass utility — so did a fax machine in 1978. Where’s the fax now?
The Fax is ubiquitous
- Network Effect image from Wikipedia
- Fax Cat courtesy of anomalous4
- Lonely Bench courtesy of Ann Kinney