Why the epic fail at Twitter.com will be a major win

Twitter fail = Twitter win

Twitter is broken, but that's okay -- every time it breaks, it makes news. Every time it makes news, it squeezes out the competition and makes them look like a pale imitation. Even sites like Plurk just can't keep pace with the Twitter surge: 12 million users and counting.

I'm a big fan of what I call the "immediate social connect." In the corporate world, they talk about unified communication and presence, but it's really just a very expensive version of the MSN Messenger home/away message. With Twitter, you're never away. It's like the guy who strapped a video camera to his head and fed the signal to a Web site somewhere. Or maybe that was a movie.

Anyway, it's a more immediate connection than FaceBook, cooler than IM, and will be around for a while.

Twitter loses money on every new account, and the mass numbers are breaking their servers right and left. They're paying a fraction of the fees that, say, Amazon.com pays to host their site. The constant outages are killing them and saving them at the same time: they take two steps back and six forward. Apparently, in the Internet economy, we can all live with 1 per cent outages if we get 99 per cent of the value.

Twitter's epic fail reminds me of what is happening with the Apple iPhone right now. The company seems incapable of generating bad press. The MobileMe service was broken, the 3G model is not that discernibly different from the original, but the hype machine keeps rolling along.

Meanwhile, Twitter is hobbling with one leg and running with the other. They don't seem to mind the outages and it doesn't look like they are racing to fix the problems. I wrote about how FaceBook.com is sticky because, once people upload their digital life, they can't download it. Okay. With Twitter, once you advertise your whereabouts, and more importantly expect your friends to do the same, it is about as sticky as Web 2.0 can get. Meaning, if I get stuck on this idea of immediate social connect (just as I once got stuck on the MSN away message), I will keep doing it until the cows come home.

The site has already passed the tipping point and will eventually become a household word. Maybe it already is at your house. Safe to say, Twitter will outlast these minor debacles. If you disagree, post in comments and let me know if you are a Twitter-er or not.

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John Brandon

Computerworld
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