What’s Wrong with Twitter

I love Twitter. I hate Twitter. Twitter has become, for me, more important than even email, a regular report for the things going on in the world. It is also overwhelmed by junk that makes reading most difficult the iPhone.

When there is real news breaking in the world, Twitter produces the most important information. And through the day, you get news, entertainment, education, and more. But there is still a big problem — it produces a lot of valuable information but provides very little for the service to make a profit.

I’ve been a Twitter member for seven years and have watched it move from silly reports (“I just got up”) to much more useful information. Unfortunately, there is also a lot more junk every day, much of it endless advertising. And far too many posts by people using much worse style to create what they say.

The real key is Twitter on the iPhone (or, secondarily Android). It’s actually at its best on the iPad but a tablet or, even worse, a laptop, isn’t the best choice for the feed. The images are a lot better on the iPad but it is kind of hard to keep it in your pocket whenever you want it. The phone is often just too small for what is displayed.

cucumber_adI have used a number of apps, but mainly Tweetbot and Twitter’s own effort. The recent experience of Tweetbot, long my favorite, is trying so many different changes that it has become almost impossible to use. Between the ads thrown in by the app, the ads thrown in by comment posters, and ads with references to vendors, they create a flood of junk you don’t want.

For example, this is a typical Twitter display. Do I care about CucumberTony? Not really. And on Tweeter, you can expect every three or four such screens to include an ad like this. Add the number of individual posts and it gets worse.

One of the worst problems with Tweetbot posts on iPhone is inserts. The problems are actually all over the place but the worst feature is inserts that simply do not fit because they are too small to read and cannot be enlarged adequately.

Consider this one, not one of the worst from Re/code. The basic display is too small:


Click once to show the display on this example and you get the example, which is still unreadable on a phone:


And if you click a second time, you get an image that is much bigger and harder to read. You can slide across the screen but it can’t be read. And you cannot rotate the phone 90 degrees, which would make it readable.


There are many other problems. Just about all of the frequent submissions by Forbes are unreadable because of the announcement, ads, and other additions the publisher has crammed in that leave articles unreadable.

Some of the behavior of iPhone images is terrible. When you touch the screen in certain places–its similar but different on Tweetbot and Tweeter–the iPhone or other phone features block the screen until you tap again. (touch features should improve this in the upcoming iOS 9.)

So far the trend looks to get worse. I have no desire to raise money from anything I post. But that is not true for many other posts who are desperate for earnings. And the harder they try, from both posters and the app owners, the worse it gets for readers.

I can’t give up because it means too much to me. But it sure is getting worse.

Published by

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

4 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Twitter”

  1. I’m still finding the interesting stuff on Twitter is mostly links to other sources, so I try to subscribe to the RSS feeds of these sources: much better signal-to-noise ratio, especially much less advertising in the feed.
    Every time I try Twitter, it drives me away with very inconsistent content (clearly, we’re dealing with individuals with no editors) and a truckload of ads.
    The real time thing is mostly hysteria: if something big happens to me, I usually notice; and if something big happens but not to me, it doesn’t matter if I’m a couple of hours late to the body count.

  2. When VW introduced the Beetle, they were not targeting the college student. Eve when they figured this out they still didn’t understand the why. Twitter using the same boat. They loved and cherished by the people who have taken to them but they still lack the understanding of why. They keep changing things because they think they figure it out. Then they don’t. I honestly don’t think anyone can truly articulate the singular thing that makes Twitter work. There may not be one thing, either. It may be a bunch of one things.

    But they have to figure something out to monetize Twitter. In the end that Twitter may have little resemblance to today’s Twitter.


  3. I don’t think anything is wrong with twitter per say. Most of twitter problems are because of shareholders and the things they have to do to grow the business. I think twitter is a great service, just not a great business, which is what’s causing a lot of the issues with the service in them trying to monetized it.

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