Twitter's risk of ubiquity

The microblogging service runs the risk of becoming too prevalent without a clear path to revenue. There is a risk in becoming ubiquitous before you make money.

Dave Rosenberg Co-founder, MuleSource
Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.
Dave Rosenberg
3 min read

I continue to marvel at the huge amount of coverage that Twitter gets from mainstream and business press, as well as the huge amount of traffic the service enjoys.

But while Twitter is becoming omnipresent in every layer of the media, the business remains a mystery. Ubiquity without clear methods of monetization can easily result in a situation where free really means free, with no way to make meaningful money.

The recent levels of Twitter adoption, attention, and omnipresence are starting to lean toward a situation where the company may never be able to effectively monetize the user base.

Twitter me this...
Twitter me this... Twitter

Don Reisinger wrote on CNET's Webware earlier this week about five Twitter improvements he's still waiting for. I completely agree with all of Don's points, but there is one key item that Twitter users and supporters are really awaiting: proof that the service will exist in the future.

By proof, I mean a business model, or even an inkling of a revenue stream to suggest that there is life beyond free and that users will remain loyal.

Twitter users don't want the company to screw up, but at what point will the company respond and deliver what the users are asking for? Users are not only rooting for the service to be successful, but going as far as providing ideas for ways that they want to be monetized.

This level of community interaction and support is unheralded and goes well beyond sites like MySpace, Digg and Facebook, all of which still garner larger traffic numbers.

Webware's Rafe Needleman wrote in December about a Churchill Club event featuring Twitter CEO Evan Williams in which the business strategy remained fuzzy. Needleman wrote:

I left the talk with more confidence in Williams than I had previously, although I'm still not convinced that Twitter can be as big as Williams says it will become. Not because the concept isn't big--it is--but rather because I am not convinced that a natural monopoly will form in the space.

I think Twitter has the monopoly on the microblogosphere. The big question is if it can take advantage of its hugely dominant position to become a real company with real revenue.

You can follow me on Twitter @daveofdoom, where I continue to enjoy the service and would gladly pay for some additional features. I find the short method of communicating from one-to-many to fit my style and enjoy following and updating my friends.

Side note: For those who have been wondering, I got my Twitter name DaveofDoom from the Black Sabbath song, "Hand of Doom." In the late 1990s I played in a now-legendary Jersey-shore instrumental surf band called The Dungarees that covered the song. One of the guys renamed it Dave of Doom, and the rest is history. This is part of what makes Twitter fun. You can add a bit of personality to your communications.

While I'm explaining things, Negative Approach was a hugely influential band from Detroit. It's also what many basketball coaches call it when you have your back to the basket on the baseline and you back-in to the hoop.