We used to speculate that Twitter’s persistent downtime and overall poor service quality could result in a Friendster-type nose dive. But after a three day weekend outage I realized that in the last two months a subtle shift occured: I now need Twitter more than Twitter needs me.
So while Robert Scoble speculates that FriendFeed is the big winner when Twitter goes down, and Dave Winer hacks together contingency plans for the next outage that remind me of stockpiling candles and bottled water for the next big storm, I just shake my head at how wonderfully we’ve all been had.
Without any government intervention at all Twitter has created a de-facto monopoly in the micor-blogging space. We all know from experience that it doesn’t make sense for cable companies, with regional monopolies, to put many resources towards upgrading the network and performing actual customer service (therefore, outages, downtime and no one on the phones). But Twitter may have something better than a physical monopoly – the network effect.
There are many competitors out there, and some of them are better than Twitter. But since everyone is already using Twitter, and the rate of growth is increasing, going to those competitors makes no sense.
For me Twitter became indispensable in March 2008, when my usage skyrocketed (I started using a desktop client to read and write messages) – see image above. It is now an important part of my work and social life, as I carry on bite-sized conversations with thousands of people around the world throughout the day. It’s a huge marketing tool, and information tool. But it is also a social habit that’s hard to kick.
For others the Twitter habit started long ago. And for most people, it is yet to start. But the trend is clear: Twitter is becoming an Internet utility. And their monopoly power via the network effect they’ve earned means they don’t have to worry much about downtime. We’ll all still be sitting here patiently, waiting for it to return.
Some will argue, as does Robert Scoble, that Twitter’s open API allows other services to suck off their users and eventually supplant them if the service outages continue. But as more services use the Twitter API, the value of the core message transmission engine behind the service increases. All Twitter has to be is the pipes to win. And, since they clearly are the pipes, they’ve already won.
I’ve Twittered this post to my followers. But since they’re having an outage affecting popular users, no one can see it. Ah well.