Would it finally give me a reason to ditch my Twitter client and go back to Twitter.com? Would it finally produce a revenue model commensurate with the company's stiff venture capital valuation and immense promise? Would it leap tall buildings in a single bound? Alas, none of the above. The new Twitter is fairly tame -- and fairly indicative of the troubles that have beset the popular but not easily monetizable company.
The new Twitter.com finally opens into a dual-pane experience. The second pane offer a rich-media viewer that allows users to watch videos or check out photos from Twitter streams. Great. Trouble is, most Twitter clients already support three, four or even five panes and some offer a similar functionality.
Steering Clear of Third-Party Developer Turf
The company says the new Twitter rolls in @mentions, retweets, searches and lists immediately above the timeline to create a single, streamlined view on the left of the screen. This is all very nice but hardly earthshaking -- and hardly enough to make me drop a streaming media client that performs a lot of these functions in a richer interface.
Further, I'm pretty used to being able to post to Facebook, LinkedIn or multiple Twitter accounts from a single client -- something Twitter.com doesn't offer. To do so, of course, would mean directly competing with developers who build applications on top of the Twitter stream. The company has wrestled with the issue by offering a better Twitter client to compete with the likes of TweetDeck, Seesmic and Hootsuite. But those systems also offer analytics, better screening and lots of other goodies that are both simple enough for less-sophisticated Tweeps and powerful enough for the micro-messaging maniacs.
With the new Twitter, however, the company clearly has put in place a template it can use to finally sell ads. But that, to me, isn't a great solution to the monetization puzzle. Turning Twitter into a straight-up ad play isn't going to turn the company into a cash machine like Google (GOOG), Zynga or Facebook. That strategy relies on a salesforce -- and on an audience that may or may not feel compelled to use Twitter.com. In reality, the new Twitter is an audience-competition and momentum play in a market where pageviews draw less and less cash from advertisers, even on premium, highly popular properties.
More Chutzpah Needed
It's nice to see that CEO Evan Williams and his crew have finally gotten out of their single-pane, single-scroll rut. But they're going to have to do better than this if Twitter.com is going to vault into a true platform play the leverages Twitter's value as a streaming staple and a communications backbone for millions of users.
The company seems to be very thoughtful of its position and not wanting to hurt anyone. But I think as long as Twitter allows the other streaming clients to access its core streams, then a bit more chutzpah and hustle would be a good thing.