What's the point of Twitter? User survey shows huge range of things people use it for

We asked 540 CNET UK users what they think of Twitter. Many who don't use it asked what the point of it was -- the rest answered them with a massive variety of uses

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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If you use Twitter, you'll almost certainly have had to deal with this question, maybe down the pub, maybe at work, maybe from your parents: "What's the bloody point?" At this point your interrogator may well mention what you had for breakfast, and txt spk, and Stephen Fry. So we asked our users what they used Twitter for, and the answers were so varied and interesting that we just had to share.

We asked 540 self-selecting CNET UK readers whether they used Twitter and what they thought of it. 59 per cent used it, 31 per cent didn't and 11 per cent have used it in the past but don't any more.

Our readers had a wide range of reasons for using Twitter. By far the most popular was entering competitions -- retweeting is a common way of doing so. Keeping in touch with friends and famous people was common, specifically favourite bands or sportspeople. Some people used the trends feature to keep up to date with current affairs, such as Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time.

Some use it for chat -- direct messages and @replies make it a "massive chat room", according to one reader. This informal communication incorporates open invites -- "going to the pub in an hour, anyone interested?" one reader generously invited us -- or posting jokes or overheard comments. One reader said it was "almost a replacement for SMS".

Others used it in place of other online services. "I use it to follow news from various companies and organisations. It has become my RSS reader," said one respondent. Another said, "I use it for posting links to my blog that don't merit the effort of opening Live Writer or Word Press Dashboard."

We asked those who don't use Twitter why not. One made a very interesting point about its reliability as a news source. During the Iran election, the reader said, "...everyone on there is screeching how people are being axed to death in the street, people are being crushed, and there's this real sense that this is immediate and important, but then you go over to a reputable news source and they're unanimously reporting quiet non-violent demonstrations at the exact same places the twittersphere says are ablaze.

"It made the whole forum look hysterical," the reader continued. "As with all of Web 2.0, the failing is that it relies upon a human capacity to converse rationally that humans are seldom capable of without the enforced accountability of talking face-to-face."

Others put their objections more bluntly. "Who wants to talk to a load of strangers about what boring things you have been doing and get their banal and boring day in return?" asked one in reply. "What's the bloody point?" was a real response, and neatly summed up the general feeling among non-users.

Twitter certainly has limitations as a form of communication, but at least we've answered that last question.