Twitter: Not Ready for Prime Time

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 05-06-2008 Print Email
The micro-blogging service, while popular, isn't ready for a mission-critical business role.

Not long ago, we asked in these pages if the micro-blogging service Twitter had become "the next small thing" for businesses.

Today's verdict: not yet.

Twitter lets users send very brief messages of no more than 140 characters, which subscribers to a given user's feed can pick up on computers or mobile devices. It's an excellent way to keep a group informed on the fly, with a lot of possible business uses.

This spring, it became clear that Twitter, which was launched two years ago by San Francisco startup Obvious, was not ready for mission-critical work. The service has suffered sustained outages, and there's been turmoil in the company's engineering ranks.

As author Clay Shirky says in an interview with CIO Insight, lightweight Web 2.0 tools shouldn't be judged by the same checklists CIOs use to evaluate more traditional software. He adds that Twitter is the epitome of the simple application that users love and use instinctively.

However, Shirky also says, "These tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring." Twitter hasn't gotten boring enough to depend on for work that really needs to get done.

That doesn't mean Twitter can't be useful in a corporate setting, as long as there is a backup service in place. And it certainly doesn't spell doom for the concept of micro-messaging--an idea that struck a lot of people as silly in 2006, but has since found a host of dedicated users.

Obvious, which has dominated the market since launching Twitter, is reportedly looking for a new round of funding. But the company may end up scrambling to maintain its leadership position. Other vendors,
and even purpose-built enterprise systems, could fill the gap if Obvious doesn't get its act together. 

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