September 15, 2008

As Twitter Regains Footing, Competitors' Growth Stalls

Over the last few months, Twitter's challenges have been well documented, here and elsewhere. Between issues with uptime, occasional data loss, a reduced feature set, and a difficult relationship with its developer community, the microblogging service frustrated many users to the point they were seeking out alternatives - from Plurk, to, Rejaw and FriendFeed. But more recently, as the service has all but eliminated downtime, and put the "Fail Whale" on the Endangered Species list (See: Pingdom's Twitter analysis), it looks like competitive services are losing momentum, and some are bleeding visitors, if Web visit tracker statistics are to be believed.'s Growth Has Returned, According to

According to, Twitter saw more than 2.6 million visitors in the month of August, a 500% increase over its December 2007 number, representing a 17.7% increase month over month. The high level of growth since June for Twitter followed a two-month near plateau from April to June, when the service's struggles were at their peak. Shows Twitter's Competitors Have Stalled

In the same time period, from July to August:
  • fell more than 58%, to 61 thousand visitors, down from more than 140 thousand the prior month.
  • fell to less than 250 thousand visitors, down 7.5% month over month, and down 30 percent from the site's peak, in June.
  • visits were flat from July to August, decreasing just under 1 percent, to more than 500 thousand visitors.
(All data from Velocity Shows Twitter Extending Its Lead

I can't claim I was an extremely "early" adopter of Twitter, and at times, I haven't been too fond of the service compared to other sites, but when it comes to status updates and "what you are doing", there really is only one game in town, one that's synonymous with the concept of microblogging - Twitter, thanks to it being first on the scene, first to amass a significant user base, and being tied in to other services, like Facebook and FriendFeed.. When Twitter had months of instability, outages, and a reduced feature set, its users didn't make the mass migration to other services that many had expected. And while they're still wrapping their arms around a business model, as services like Yammer claim to have gotten to the financial promised land first, Twitter has got the brand recognition and the massive user base that no other service can claim.

On Saturday, I wrote to Chris Baskind on FriendFeed, regarding Twitter.
"We have huge expectations and therefore, huge frustrations. The site has so much potential, and realistically, they have already won the microblogging battle, so we want them to be great!"
Twitter has the potential to be the conduit for the SMS and text messaging generation to social media. Twitter has already proven to be a great option for news updates, alerts to emergencies, and for using keywords to gauge the temperature of tens of thousands at once. And for anybody looking to the smaller services like Plurk, Rejaw, or, even if those services have incrementally better features or a stronger UI, they would have to expect a smaller user base, becoming an increasingly quiet echo chamber.

Barring disaster or bankruptcy, Twitter's leadership should continue. I've seen increasing examples of late where the site has become more mainstream. Those looking to alternative microblogging services may have had the time to hit at Twitter's weaknesses pass them by, as the site has nearly eliminated downtime, and started again on the growth curve, when others have stalled or seen user traffic decimated.