Henry's article isn't incorrect in its assessment of Twitter's challenges for growth. The microblog does tend to appeal more to those in tech circles than others, and it has a relatively high barrier to entry because it works best after you've dedicated time to find, follow and list the people you care to track. But it is the way Henry equates traffic and users to mainstream that makes me think we might need a different yardstick by which to measure mainstream.
According to the article, Twitter has 145 million users worldwide, but Twitter.com only welcomes slightly less than 29 million unique users each month. On this basis, it might seem to be more niche than mainstream, but if 29 million is not mainstream, then neither is:
Google has said nothing about its rumored social networking offering, but it may be that the company has just revealed its secret weapon to take on Facebook. The new Priority Inbox feature in Gmail hints at social media’s next great battleground: Relevance!
Facebook itself inadvertently demonstrated the value of relevance and what is most wrong with the current Facebook user experience. The Facebook Places announcement event two weeks ago was the geeky event you’d expect, but there was an unexpected moment of clarity and beauty in the midst of the typical discussion of APIs, partners and functionality. Facebook VP Chris Cox told a story set in the future that defines the true promise that social networking has yet to fulfill:
“In 20 years our children will go to Ocean Beach and their phone will tell them this is the place their parents had their first kiss, and here’s the picture they took afterward, and here’s what their friends had to say.”
It’s a great story, isn’t it? But today’s Facebook experience offers no chance this experience could actually occur. Instead, here’s what would happen based on the current Facebook functionality: Those kids will visit that beach and their parents’ precious story will be nowhere to be found on the Ocean Beach Places page. That wonderful 20-year-old status update and picture will be buried under 500 pages of less meaningful messages such as “Don’t buy a hot dog from the snack bar,” “Here’s a picture of some hot babes I took here,” and “Beach kegger party this Saturday night, dudes!”