As the investigation into Russian activities leading up to the 2016 election digs deeper, more details are emerging. One of the more shocking finds is that a popular internet personality, “Jenna Abrams,” never really existed. “She” was the product of the Internet Research Agency, the large troll farm operating in St Petersburg, Russia.
Her popular twitter and facebook accounts were quickly deleted with the revelation, leaving us without valuable forensic information. How was it possible for us to be duped? It’s hard to say if we don’t have the text in front of us. But wordpress doesn’t have the same policy, leaving “her” blog up for us to see to this day. It shows us just how sophisticated the operation was and how reasonable it was for so many to be duped.
Twitter is dying. Or perhaps it is already dead, it’s hard to say. The stock has rallied lately, anticipating a buyout by …. someone. Google just said they aren’t interested, and who can blame them? The company has never been profitable and has never found its niche.
It is still handy if you want to know what Trump is thinking around 3AM, if you are into that kind of thing. CNN still relies on twitter for feeds from ordinary people for some reason. But for all of this, there was never anything resembling an actual revenue model and never any attempt to find a way to organize the firehose of information that blasts at you once you reach a certain number of users.
I have no use for it, and I don’t know anyone who does. Will it go away?
The question always comes up in about the same way whenever I have a new client seeking social media advice.
Client: “I don’t get Twitter. Can you explain it to me?”
Me: “It’s like a personalized news ticker and public chatroom.”
Client: “That’s it? That’s all there is to it? Why is there all the hype?”
At this point, we have less dialogue and more handwaving. People who aren’t on twitter already don’t “get it” and will probably never become users. That’s reflected in their falling growth rate, down to 4% each quarter. And it’s starting to show up in their stock price now that the six month lockup period is over, allowing insiders a chance to sell. It’s below $33 a share, down 25% from the first day of the IPO last November. It’s worth about $19B total, about the same as Facebook’s tab to buy WhatsApp.
Is Twitter dead? No, MySpace and AOL are still around – but that’s where it’s headed at this rate.
Can twitter save the world? Probably not. But when the tweets are “Urbi et Orbi” it’s pretty likely they will be retweeted.
Over the last six weeks Pope Francis (@Pontifex) has delivered 140 characters of worldly homily nearly every day, but none of them have been as noticed as his message for 2 May – “My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost.” A small firestorm was created on the ‘net … well, the usual internet people behaved in an internet way about it and got their 140 getback. Whatever. But what matters is that Pope Francis is emerging as a leader for the rights of the downtrodden at a time when such leaders are needed – and is emphasizing things that reach out to embrace a slightly bigger world of the meek.