It has been the case since the mid ’90s that periodically folks who may have had some degree of expertise and insight in the previous iteration of internet business model and technology will cast a jaundiced eye at current trends and dismiss them out of hand in a way that demonstrates singularly well their complete disassociation from the current industry. I would suggest that Sean Carton did just this in a recent ClickZ article in which he evaluates Twitter based upon website traffic.
To start with, Second Life, with its static and culturally delimited audience is a lousy analogy, even if you only judge twitter by the quantcast numbers Carton quotes. Looking further at those numbers, contrary to what he states, the twitter audience actually seems fairly well split among demographics. Where he is minimally correct is that return visits seem sparse, per quantcast. But this is the core error he falls into; the beauty of twitter is the API, and the >150 external applications built upon it, and he’s far from approaching the interesting complexities of tweet creation and consumption. Not only does the API allow for a thousand flowers blooming, which it does especially well, but it enables integration into the full flow of social networking. The fact that the twitter site does not have a huge number of return visitors is a signal of success, not failure. The successful pattern for this medium is of users setting up accounts and accessing/posting tweets from a variety of sites, apps, and devices. And, really to think that twitter is a navel-gazing exercise is an error that is forgivable in non-professionals, but not in anyone demanding fees for their opinion. Small bite messages, utilized as common currency among early adopters and integrated as twitter is, serve a wide variety of purposes, including, but not at all limited to, navel gazing. If my ad agency told me that twitter was insignificant because not enough people were visiting twitter.com, I’d get another agency.