It’s always fun to look back at the predictions ancient man made about life in the future.
11 years ago today, Loïc Le Meur wrote 30 predictions for the future of Twitter (archive.org of the original).
This is a non-snarky look at those predictions. Not to ridicule his ideas, but to understand the errors made in order to help up make better predictions.
1. It will reach masses of people
Yes! Perhaps not the whole world, but it is obvious a mass medium.
2. They won’t use the same tools as we do
Hard to say. Twitter has driven the official app route pretty hard. But people post and consume from a variety of devices.
3. It will not be only about Twitter
-status updates will be open across social software
-all social software will have status updates
-Facebook has 40+ million updates a day
Insta, WhatsApp, and a variety of other tools all use status updates in one form or another.
4. Twitter will still be dominant in status updates it’s the motherboard on which we plug in
For a certain demographic, yes. Younger people seem to prefer tools like private chat.
5. We will laugh thinking we were updating them all manually
Lots of automated posts happen. Things like “scrobbling” (automatically posting what music you’re listening to) hasn’t really taken off.
6. The social graph will also open up
The social graph is loved by nerds, but ignored by everyone else. About the best you can get is “You follow Bob, and Bob follows Alice, therefore you should follow Alice”. There’s plenty of academic interest in it, but not many practical applications have taken off.
7. Twitter will be big to get an idea of a person or a brand reputation not by number of followers but mostly influence with retweeting and lists lets you think like that person thinks
Not really. Sure, you can look at how many retweets an account gets, but perhaps the better way is to see how many complaints a brand gets and how they answer them. That’s harder to automatically verify.
There is no automatic “reputation score” – either for brands or people. Services like Klout were frequently wrong, easy to manipulate, and have thankfully died out.
8. Twitter will replace SMS for millions of people
-it is portable and archives across devices
-you don’t need to remember a phone number
-you are not tied to a mobile operator
Nope! This is the first utterly wrong prediction. WhatsApp and Telegram and WeChat have replaced SMS. They’re private (in that you don’t post to a public timeline), and more suited to realtime chat. They also offer to upgrade you texting to voice and video.
As it turns out, people are either happy to port their phone numbers or start their social-graph from scratch. A good way to cut out toxic people from your life.
9. Twitter might replace Chat for many people, too
-a DM exchange is very similar to a private chat
-Twitter lists are very similar to a public chat room
Ish… Again, Twitter DM doesn’t match native chat apps. Twitter lists are an unloved feature. I love the idea of Twitter chat rooms – but Discord and Slack seem to have taken that mantle.
10. Location will be one of the most widespread status update
Sadly wrong. I’d love to know where my friends are, and let them know where I am. It would make serendipitous meeting so much easier. I’m truly sad that FourSquare usage died out.
People don’t want “the public” knowing where they are at all times.
11. Private updates will be bigger than public updates (my kids say…)
Hard to measure. I think most of the private conversations take place off Twitter. The so-called “dark social”.
12. Public ecommerce status updates won’t work buying things is very intimate
Interesting one this. I see authors saying “Click here to buy my book”. And “Influencers” spend a lot of time promoting their wares. Twitter haven’t integrated a “buy now” feature though. Perhaps it should?
13. Live reviews of any place and product will deeply influence it though
Turns out, realtime isn’t that important to most people. TripAdvisor and Amazon reviews are good enough. Sure, they’re easy to game, but most people don’t need incredibly recent reviews.
14. Promos by brands and retailers will have big success for last minute deals
Flash-sales are important in certain communities and demographics. I don’t see evidence of Twitter being the place for that though.
15. Talking to shops and restaurants via Twitter will become standard and will get opt in coupons as we enter a shop, based on location
Yes! People chat to brands on Twitter. Sadly, the larger ones are basically as useless as call centres.
Again, this obsession with location. People say they want a coupon as soon as they pass by a store, but then they act like it’s spam. That’s part of the reason why the Physical Web never took off.
16. Web will be a fraction of mobile use
The web and mobile web are one. But apps are bigger on mobile.
17. Dating over Status updates won’t be big
Ha! Fair enough. Although I know plenty of people who get pick-up lines in their DMs.
18. Twitter won’t display ads in your main feed
19. Users will get too angry at unsolicited ads
I certainly do! Advertising is a scourge.
20. Other revenue opportunities such as pro accounts for businesses will be enough
It seems bizarre to me that Twitter hasn’t monetised more of its features. I assume it’s because their venture backers also back advertising networks.
21. There will be more devices publishing updates than humans wifi scale, planes, trains, cars all posting updates
Not really. There’s lots of brands publishing, and public transport publishes updates. But it’s quicker and more relevant to get a push notification from a dedicated app if you want to follow a specific thing.
22. Corporations will have entire teams devoted to Twitter and status updates
Yup! Although most of them just seem to say “DM me your account details so we don’t have this awkward conversation in public”.
23. Hyperlocal news sites with Twitter geotagging feature (thanks, @stevefarnworth)
*sigh* Again, something Twitter has failed to capitalise on. Hyperlocal search basically doesn’t exist on the platform. Partly because people are too lazy or too privacy conscious to geotag posts, and partly because things like dedicated restaurant review apps will always have better content.
24. Google and Bing will be the dominant ways to search Twitter
Ha! Back when this was written, Twitter didn’t have native search. I think they started to after they acquired a company in 2011.
Sure, you can search Twitter from Google. But a lot depends on whether Google feels like surfacing Tweets for you.
25. Google will have its own Twitter and won’t acquire Twitter
RIP Googles Buzz, Wave, and Plus.
26. There will be a few alternatives for niche search such as brand monitoring
Most monitoring tools seem to use Twitter – or resell firehose services.
27. Internal Enterprise Twitter like services will become standard
Yes! A good prediction about the addictive power of social media making it into the workplace. Slack, Yammer, Teams are all Twitter-like services.
28. Vertical Twitter apps will start to appear
I think this means “an app for following sports teams on Twitter”. It hasn’t happened. People are happy to context switch their apps. And brands want to communicate without intermediaries like Twitter.
29. Stocktweets is the first one
30. Twitter will remain mostly used outside of Twitter.com
Tweets appear on TV, embedded in websites, and printed on billboards. But I think this overestimates the desire Twitter had to enclose its network.
31. Language will evolve adapting to 140char, concise, ignore rules (thanks, @bernard_d)
Go read Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch! This prediction misses the rise of emoji, but is otherwise accurate.
32. @mentions spam will grow and become a tough to solve issue
:crying emoji intensifies:
33. There will be less and less bullshit in public events and in general
Yes. Twitter has made the world bullshit free… When this was written, Twitter users were (mostly) real people and the network between them was strong. The predictions talk about how big Twitter would grow to be, but ignores the gamification that comes with it. The outrage economy, the constant chasing for like and retweets, has amped up the bullshit.
34. It will always be about you, not the tools
If you’re proficient at using TikTok’s tools, you’ll do better on the platform that if you’re not. Similarly, if you have the tools to make engaging images and videos, you’ll be able to make better Twitter content.
What have we learned
These were pretty good predictions! But..
- Geeks overestimate how much people like doing Geeky things.
- Notions of privacy change. And exposure to “the mob” kills off any desire to let the public know your physical location.
- “Obvious” routes to monetisation are often avoided for reasons which are oblique to the average user.
- People don’t always want one-app-to-rule-them-all. They’ll happily switch between dozens. Mind you, WeChat is bucking that trend.
All attempts to predict the future fail eventually. There is an alternative timeline where Loïc’s ideas all succeeded. And I think it sounds like a marvellous place.