5 Things I Hate About Twitter

Twitter is a web service that lets you microblog throughout the day, posting tidbits of information on events or just updates for people you know.  However it’s got a few drawbacks that keep it from being as groundbreaking as it could be.

[This article is followed up by 5 Things I Love About Twitter]

  1. Sparse web interface
    The mobile web interface for Twitter is a very spartan scene.  It’s purposely light to allow the site to be quickly accessed by its thousands of regular visitors throughout the day.  While the regular web page can always be accessed, the site should be used from a mobile device to be most useful.  That’s where people will be doing most of the activity that will interest others – out and about, rather than at the keyboard.  But the mobile interface makes it hard to reply and lacks many of the features that could be added with a little Javascript.  This pretty much restricts you to posting and viewing the friends stream.
  2. Kludgy replying interface
    Ignoring the web interface for now, let’s move on to the regular site.  The text box for Twitter allows you to post messages to anyone Following you.  You can publically target a message to specific user with the @ symbol and reply to someone by clicking the little arrow on their post.  However, moving on to viewing a specific user’s page, it’s not possible to reply to a post without using a custom Javascript bookmarklet. It’s amazing that the text box is not available at the top of the site at all times, since that’s really the function of the site.  This should be made a little easier to use.
  3. Discussions cannot be followed
    Posting on Twitter will, of course,  lead to someone replying and then followed by other replies from yourself or others.  These discussions are almost impossible to follow once you get past a few friends since there are only 20 or so posts per page.  Applications like Twitterific, Twinkle and Twittelator can do it correctly.  FriendFeed does a spectacular job of handling replies and aggregating dozens of services.  How can Twitter itself not be able to present the same data in another format on its own pages?  There needs to be a way to follow threads of discussion without making the user jump through hoops.
  4. Interoperability
    Another role that has been left up to other web sites is making Twitter interoperable with other sites.  Why does a service like ping.fm exist when Twitter is the keeper of that data?  Rather than using Twitter as a hub of your discussions, it is just an endpoint for the data from sites like ping.fm and a source for aggregator sites like FriendFeed.  It should be able to receive data from a blog and post to LinkedIn and/or vice versa, all configurable from its settings page.  Twitter seems content to just be a conduit for data, fading into the background where it will not have direct user interaction.  It will just be a database tier, allowing other web services to provide the front-end tier where any revenue is most likely to be generated.
  5. Unreliable
    Despite the the lightness of the web interface, Twitter is somehow unable to scale as its popularity grows.  These days Twitter frequently displays the Fail Whale instead of its expected services.  A number of changes have been made to improve the infrastructure, even as far as abandoning its Ruby on Rails for PHP, but something still seems fundamentally wrong.  Most services would have been abandoned by now for being so unreliable, but its audience has fallen in love with it after it first exploded onto the scene and few are jumping ship.  Twitter is getting a lot of free passes so hopefully it can capitalize on its extra chances.

Because of the above issues, there are plenty of other services like identi.ca and FriendFeed ready to move in and eat Twitter’s lunch.  Without these issues, Twitter could be a reliable, full-featured service that other sites depend on, and which users can use from anywhere they are active.  It could then consider charging money for Premium services such as featured microblogs, additional storage, more page customization, or better appearance rates in searches.

In my next post, I’ll give you 5 reasons why I love Twitter.


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