Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ah, Twitter, Lucky You’re Not in Ecommerce!

Down for Days? No Problem for Asynchronous Communication Platforms.

How many times have Twitter users seen the white whale? Definitely more than Captain Ahab. Maybe we should all be called “Ishmael”? Once again users are going through an epic period of downtime and other random mishaps. Rob DeMillo, CTO of 4INFO, recently experienced missing five days of mentions, which I experienced a few times over these recent months.

Taking a step back, isn’t it amazing that we all still stay with Twitter? Sure, there are scarce alternatives, but even when a direct competitor, such as Pownce, was around there were seemingly more rounds of downtime but Twitter still grew. Are Twitter users simply sadomasochists? Of course not.

I believe Twitter users have a high tolerance because we know this is an asynchronous communications platform. Sure there is the importance of timing in tweets, but we also benefit from the ability to respond (and even ignore) to direct tweets or conversations at our own leisure. Twitter is an asynchronous platform in real-time clothing.

Imagine if Amazon or eBay suffered this much downtime? Their business would be toast. Even IM platforms, such as Meebo, would suffer a mass exodus if they had half the downtimes that Twitter goes through. Twitter is in a unique space of user forgiveness and frustration without consequences that has made me think about how to apply this model in other areas.

Fast casual foods? Not really fast, but very casual. Order your burger (a very kickass burger) with no set delivery time. Just a range of 1-2 days. The burger is so awesome that consumers would be willing to deal with the random delivery time. Hmmm, maybe not. Asynchronous online radio? Select hundreds of songs that will be streamed to a desktop application in random order but might present pauses in your listening for up to 2 hours. Definitely a “no”. It seems Twitter’s model is unique to its short-form of online communication. I guess we have to just suck it up and deal. Or maybe Six Apart can revive Pownce or Kevin Rose can build another competing platform?

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