When Will Twitter Innovate?

On Twitter today, Web Goldenboy Charl Norman posed the question: “When will Twitter innovate?”

 (Watch this video if you’re unfamiliar with Twitter)

I suspect that Charl means to ask when Twitter will add more features, such as those seen in Plurk, where you can add pictures, videos and see responses to your ‘plurk’ (equivalent to a ‘tweet’). Each Plurk and its responses even has its own URL!

Let’s assume for the moment that Twitter does have ambitions to add new features. There’s one major thing holding it back: its own popularity.

You see, the moment a simple web 2.0 app like Twitter becomes immensely popular, it becomes extremely risky to change anything. Running a company that provides internet access to thousands of users, I definitely have become more innately conservative when it comes to adding new features.

New features have to have a really convincing reason to exist. I constantly have to force myself to keep thinking like the computer science student for whom anything is possible, rather than the businessman trying to make sure the service just keeps working.

I’d like to call this phenomenon “Feature Stiffening” (as opposed to Feature Freeze). And although I’ve sometimes experienced this emotion (because that’s what it is, really), I’ve managed to overcome it thus far by actively being aware of it when it attacks. But we only have thousands of users… not millions of users!

Millions of users use Twitter for what it is! And the moment you’ve achieved that, Feature Stiffening is a lot harder to overcome.Add to that Twitter’s well-known capacity issues and constant downtime, and you can see why innovation might be the most dangerous thing they could do.

Innovate or Die? What do you think?

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