This move by Google is significant for a number of reasons:
- It’s built into Gmail and tons of people already use Gmail.
- It’s an outstanding parry to Facebook’s decision to try their hand at email (which would compete directly with Gmail).
- If you have Facebook and Gmail, one could argue that Twitter may be on its way to irrelevancy.
Let’s speak to #3 because it’s a pretty bold statement. By the way, if you want to come off as a jerk, refer to your own statements as “bold.” It’s wicked-effective. Anyway, let’s think about the things that people use Twitter for:
- Updating peers on what they’re doing: Facebook and Buzz now have this covered.
- Sharing with peers things like pics, articles, memes, etc.: Facebook and Buzz now have this covered.
- Updating non-peers on the points above: Facebook and Buzz can have this covered (depending on privacy settings).
- Following peers and their activities: Facebook and Buzz now have this covered.
- Following non-peers such as celebrities, companies, etc. and their activities: Twitter alone has this covered.
One thing to remember is that just because someone else does something just as well or better than you doesn’t necessarily make you irrelevant or obsolete. The problem for Twitter is that Facebook and Gmail have larger user bases and, very arguably, command more frequent interaction than Twitter. For example, I have to check my Gmail and my Facebook everyday because people attempt to contact me on both. With Twitter, I really only have to use it if I have something to share or if I have a huge following that I value that requires maintenance via frequent tweets to keep. For new adopters, Twitter may seem like a hassle; Facebook status updates and Buzz may seem like optional, additional features that I can choose to engage or ignore without abandoning the media entirely (i.e. Gmail and Facebook).
Sure, Twitter is still the best way to find out what Shaq is up to or what news stories are new on CNN. It’s also the best way to shout into an abyss. By that I mean that I have a Twitter account, I tweet all the time, I even have alleged “followers” but the only people who might care about my tweets tend about to come from my Facebook account anyway. So, if you really want information on people that you don’t know but are interested in, Twitter is still relevant. Also, if you’re egotistical enough to think that people who don’t know you would care about the things you do, think or care about, Twitter is still your best option. That doesn’t make Twitter useless, however, it does throw a huge monkey wrench into their business model which is based on growth of unique users.
I’m not a doctor, so I’m not the kind of person to solemnly walk into Twitter’s offices in San Francisco and say, “Twitter, I’m sorry but you only have six months to live.” I don’t plan to call Twitter’s time of death anytime soon. All that I’ saying is that Twitter cannot be happy about Google entering the social foray. Neither should Facebook be too thrilled but with Facebook’s model, I think that they are more likely to be able to put up a better fight.
Remember these words, my friend, for a wise, handsome, talented, rugged man once said them: “Hell hath no fury like Sergey and Larry scorned.”