Back in 2007, when Evan Williams (the brilliant and no bullshit founder of Twitter, Odeo, Blogger) took the stage at Leweb3, the host asked those with a Twitter account to raise their hand. Around 90% of the audience did, giving the impression that the whole planet was being twitterized despite recent reports that the service has only 1 million users.
This latest “demonstration” left me with a bitter sensation. I was getting increasingly worried by the growing distance between the web 2.0 community’s perception of the world and the reality I see on the “field”. Twitter is used by the community of influencers (who gather around this service because it allows them to update the world about their oh-so-important whereabouts) and they, as we all do, succumb to the temptation to generalize and say “if me and all my friends use it, everybody uses – or will use – it”.
Problem is that Twitter is really not making it to the masses (as the one million users proves) and anybody doing a quick and informal survey will find. Kara Swisher from All things D tried:
I conducted a little experiment among more than 100 folks […] all of whom were quite intelligent, armed with all kinds of the latest devices (many, many people had iPhones, for example) and not sluggish about technology. […] And so I asked a large group of people–about 30–and here is the grand total who knew what Twitter was: 0
Widget: 1 (but she thought it was one of the units used in a business class study).
Facebook: Everyone I asked knew about it and about half had an account, although different people used it differently.
In other words, confirming for me what I wrote last week about the intense obsession with the hottest new services like Twitter and FriendFeed, in the echo chamber of Silicon Valley, and how no one else cares yet.
Early adopters come across two kinds of products: those that are not yet known, have a universal twist, and will make it big. Then there are the products who will remain confidential because they address the needs of a community that functions differently from the masses, a community that communicates more, that is looking for more social feedback (how many followers do I have?), that has different priorities than the day to day internet user.
I feel like Twitter is an early adopters tool more than a mass tool. Time might prove me wrong, but after using it for a few months – forced by the frequent posting on blogs and remarks of friends – I still have a hard time finding a point of being on the receiving end of an unfiltered brain-dump.