Getting Twitty Wit It

In my articles about the iPad, I’ve mentioned the old world/new world computing paradigm that I gleaned from another author. Today I read an article, 120 is the new 140, that got me thinking about this paradigm in a different arena – that of social networking and some differences between Twitter and Facebook. Basically, I think that ease-of-use is an issue that way too many people undervalue, but one that may make or break the future of social networking services.

The basic use of Twitter is very simple. Post something to share it with others. I think that is why Twitter became so popular. From there, though, Twitter has started to get a bit more complicated. Firstly, you must keep your post under 140 characters. Many people wonder why 140 characters? That’s because SMS text messages from cell phones can only be 140 characters and posting from text messages was how Twitter got started. But in today’s world, is a 140 character limit really necessary?

But the 140 character limit is honestly just a nitpick. What I am really more concerned with is the increasingly complicated lexicon of Twitter. Some days it is a chore to check Twitter because so much of what is written is broken up by hash tags #, at symbols @, RT, HT, OH, and short URLs Reading it is one thing. A non-technical user trying to keep up with all these terms and concepts can be downright daunting. Referring to the article I mentioned, as social networking continues to grow, will non-technical users continue to put up with needing to manipulate their posts in such ways?

Compared with Facebook, Twitter can seem like using a 1980’s DOS computer. Twitter has been trying to make things simpler and many of the third-party Twitter utilities also can attempt to simplify things. But that also speaks to another point of confusion with Twitter. There are so many third-party Twitter tools out there that it can be confounding just trying to understand which tool to use. Non-technical users are going to give up quickly. Facebook is basically Facebook. The vast majority of users interface with Facebook from a web browser. Most mobile Facebook apps come from Facebook themselves, so even that experience is fairly consistent.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really like a lot of things that Twitter does. But I fear that Twitter may have its roots too engrained in the old world of technology. Due to ease-of-use issues, I’m not sure Twitter will be able to transition into the new world as well as a service like Facebook. What does that mean for you? Maybe nothing for the short-term, but for those planning long-term social networking strategies, it may be something worth paying attention to.

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