Monday, September 28, 2009

What Twitter has meant for FourSquare, and what I think Twitter should learn from Four$quare

That FourSquare has benefited tremendously from Twitter is obvious. I can’t sign into my twitter account without finding out so-and-so got some badge or became the mayor of some place. In fact, I first learned of FourSquare thanks to Twitter and to seeing these announcements, and I would be willing to bet that a huge majority of FourSquare’s current users also found out about FourSquare thanks to Twitter.

Sites like Twitter and Facebook are fantastic word of mouth conduits. Whereas FourSquare once would have had to grow by asking users to email their friends and sign up, Twitter provides a means of having friends do the equivalent of passively inviting their friends over and over again. Repeatedly. Consistently. FourSquare's effective leveraging of Twitter is part of its brilliance.

It reminds me of a famous Mary Meeker chart which I can’t find on Google so I’m recreating here:

Thanks to the Twitter and Facebooks of the world, web apps will be able to grow even faster than they once were. The growth of web apps in general will become increasingly dynamic – both in terms of picking up early momentum and growing much faster than previously, but also fizzling out (like oh so many facebook applications). While I don’t think there will be a higher frequency of 50m-user applications, I believe there will be a higher frequency of 1m-user apps than ever before.

But the natural evolution of this is that Twitter will be increasingly abused by new web apps hoping to leverage Twitter’s effortless word-of-mouth. There is no mechanism in Twitter that I know of to limit what I’ll call web app Twitter “spitter”, and so there is no reason for web app companies not to push their app-specific messages to Twitter. And while conceivably there should be a natural mechanism of Tweeters not wanting to annoy their followers by allowing too much “spitter”, that mechanism is just not that efficient. I’m willing to put up with my friends’ spitter in much the same way that you put up with a friend’s occasional bad jokes or body sounds. But that’s not to say that spitter doesn’t degrade my experience on Twitter. As more applications look to FourSquare as an example of how to leverage Twitter, Twitter is going to increasingly become a jungle of 3rd party tweets.

That’s why I wonder how Twitter, with all its open API principles, will manage this inevitability. The one idea I have is for Twitter to actually charge applications a small amount for each “push” to Twitter, much like an email marketing company charges per email delivery. This will force developers to limit their use of Twitter, and therefore create a better Twitter user experience.

What do you think?

blog comments powered by Disqus