Twitter Turns Five. Now What?

Hard to believe it’s been five years since Twitter was started as a side project by Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey. From its roots as a spin-off of Odeo to becoming a global communications phenomenon with more than 175 million users, Twitter has become one of the most fascinating, if not the most fascinating social media story.

But as much as Twitter ranks as one of the leading social media players, there are still many questions about where it’s heading and how it’s going to get there. As Twitter heads into the second half of its first decade, here are a few of the most burning issues:

1. Will Twitter ever discovery a lucrative business model. While eMarketer suggests Twitter will have revenue of $150-million this year, Twitter is far from being a cash-machine. After rejecting the idea of contextual advertising, Twitter finally took the bait a few months ago, quietly rolling out a promoted tweets program into beta.

Meanwhile, there are lots of companies making major revenue by leveraging Twitter or its API. Ad.ly, for example, is emerging as a player in the referral marketplace by signing deals with popular celebrities such as Charlie Sheen,who get paid to post tweets about specific products.

2. Is Twitter really serious about going to war against the developer community? After letting developers go to town using its API, Twitter recently put the hammer down. In particular, it strongly suggested that developers not create clients that would replicate the experience of using Twitter.com – something that has proliferated because many third-party services and applications (e.g. TweetDeck, Seesmic) do a much better job for users.

3. Is there an IPO happening in the near future or will Twitter be acquired? To be honest, one of the most surprising things about Twitter turning five-years-old is that it’s still independent. With a strong brand and lots of users, Twitter should have been snapped up by Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft….or anyone with deep pockets and a need to expand its digital presence.

Who knows, maybe Twitter’s founders and investors believe patience is a virtue. In any event, the possibility of an IPO or takeover will continue to be one of the leading issues for Twitter watchers.

4. Is there any chance Twitter could encounter competition? Facebook has MySpace (sort of), Google has Bing, WordPress has Blogger, YouTube had Vimeo, and LinkedIn and Viadeo. Twitter has no one after Pownce got trounced a few years ago.

The question is whether Twitter is bullet-proof or, at least, competition-proof. Or maybe there’s a micro-blogging startup working out of someone’s basement on the best thing to hit social media since, well, Twitter.

Where do you think Twitter is going?

One Comment on “Twitter Turns Five. Now What?”

  1. I don’t really agree that Twitter doesn’t have any competition… I think all of the social media technologies you mentioned compete with Facebook. Facebook encompasses all of the most used functionalities of flickr (photo albums), Blogger/WP (Notes/pages), Vimeo, search and most importantly, status updates. I think Twitter is going to have to work to differentiate itself from Facebook status updates down the road. The average user has more facebook friends than followers on Twitter. I personally have begun posting more regularly on FB because I get better response and increased interaction. The integration with other content (video/photo/brands) is unbeatable.

    I think it’s important to consider technologies like Instagram, Picplz, and Path as competitors for Twitter… They work from the same basic model with emphasis on different content (photos).

    Just my two cents, nice article.

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