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Twitter lost the average Joe and Jane (and they may never return)

Matt Kapko | June 23, 2015
Almost 10 years and 302 million active users (MAU) after its launch, Twitter remains a confusing, social media free-for-all. While it's embracing change on the periphery, its namesake platform remains an increasingly lackluster and frustrating experience for users. If you don't regularly use Twitter now, the odds are you never will.

Twitter, to be fair, has improved significantly over the past couple years. Users have some features to be thankful for -- group messaging, video (capture, edit and share), multiple photos, a new profile design and others -- but the company isn't doing enough to attract more users and increase total time spent on its platform. Almost everything that comes to Twitter now just feels too little and too late.

Most of the exciting and more inspired changes have come via acquisitions such as Periscope and Vine. Feeds are prettier now, with more photos and videos, but the general experience is as convoluted as ever. Instead of learning, engaging and exploring, it's too easy to gloss over and scroll through your feed until you hit a wall.

For years, Twitter has been trying to solve this problem with an array of A/B testing and experimentation, but none of those efforts have resulted in meaningful changes. A growing lineup of executives have succumbed to an irrational fear of upsetting the vocal minority when it's the silent majority that they need to serve.

Instead, users have been largely ignored as the company scrambles to build an advertising business that's already showing cracks in the surface. For most people and advertisers, Twitter just isn't a must-do or must-have social network. It probably could have been if it hadn't waited so long to get its act together.

Twitter still dominates live events

Old habits die hard and even I'm not sure why Twitter still gets so much of my attention. Sure, it has its strengths as a medium for journalists, but that's not all I care about. My instinct is still to go on Twitter during and in the immediate aftermath of major events. When the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship and when the windows in my house began to shake recently (it was a minor earthquake), I went to Twitter right away for answers and entertainment. And when unspeakable violence struck at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., Twitter kept me informed in the immediate aftermath with details of the massacre and accounts from those on the ground or reporting from elsewhere.

Twitter is unmatched when it comes to distributing real-time information, but finding that information as it unfolds is the tricky part. The company is working on yet another solution for that problem with a project called Lightning that will bring event-based curated content to the center of its platform, according to BuzzFeed.

Kevin Weil, Twitter's senior vice president of product, admits that's difficult for users to find the best tweets around breaking news, current events or local happenings. "There's amazing content," he tells BuzzFeed, "but it's hard to discover it; you have to work as a user to go and find the best stuff, but [we] can do it easily and can package it richly."

 

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