Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang: Twitter is way over hyped !?

Reporting:  Joe Hunkins

Here at the first major Twitter conference it’s surprising to hear a very sharp, leading technology watcher so profoundly misunderstand the significance of Twitter, but it’s happening right now in real time.

Jeremiah Owyang, no stranger to Twitter, is using what I’m pretty sure is mostly canned presentation to explain to the enthusiastic Twitter audience that they are mistaken to see Twitter as singularly significant. He’s certainly right that Twitter is not the only social media game in town and that it’s still smaller than Facebook, but I think he’s missing the significance of the trend here. Twitter is growing faster than any major application in history, it already has widespread mainstream and celebrity adoption across most demographic groups, and it is evolving an ecosystem noted more for how it shares Twitter functionality freely with everybody than how it seeks to be proprietary.

Sure, Twitter is currently far more significant as a sociological phenomenon than as a big business tool. Perhaps Jeremiah’s big business focus is getting in the way here, but the global public conservation has begun in a powerful way and Twitter – more than any other application – is the key to accessing that conversation and participating.

Hmm – I’m live blogging this right now during his presentation and he’s changed his tune a bit to (correctly) suggest many of the ways Twitter is now used by companies to engage with customers. I’m wildly guessing the first part of the presentation was created before the rise of Twitter?

Dear @jowyang, Twitter is not over hyped.

Update:  I had a brief chat with Jeremiah and Stowe Boyd (who had also tweeted his disagreement with the “overhyped” tag on Twitter.   Owyang noted correctly that many new tech tools come out swinging with a lot of buzz and are labelled “the next big thing” only to land on the dustpile of obscurity or become only marginally significant after a few years.  But as somebody noted during that talk Twitter is about human innovation, not technological innovation and thus is more likely to withstand the test of time.

Important but unknown data points make the calculations somewhat unreliable, but for me the growth rate combined with the large current size and easy capitalization suggests Twitter has already become something of a mainstream standard that *cannot* die a quick death and is very unlikely to die a slow one.   We needed a standard for chit chatting across the web in the global conversation spawned by the advent of the social web.   Although it’s not clear why Twitter is winning this game I think it’s almost clear that they will be the big winner, and since they are sharing the wealth so generously I don’t see how anybody is likely to unseat them.   Facebook and Myspace can continue to thrive as private social tools and Google can thrive as the search of choice.  Ebay will remain the main US auction space for some time.   This still leaves a massive market in which Twitter can continue to provide the key standards and infrastructure for the global conversation.

13 thoughts on “Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang: Twitter is way over hyped !?

  1. That’s an honor that you thought the presentation was canned, or how I interpret it that it was done before. So thank you!

    In reality, I’ve never given that presentation before, and 80% of the content was brand new, I created the slides on Monday. The only slides I had reused were the stats in the first 10 or so slides, as I mentioned it was previous data. Forrester analysts are expected to rehearse our presentations (I did thrice) and we have speaker training and speech coaches, glad it paid off!

    Twitter is overhyped, why? There’s mainstream attention, but not mainstream adoption.

  2. Pingback: Twitted by alwayzThinking

  3. Sorry Jeremiah, that was a snarky comment written early in your provocative (esp. for the Twitter Crowd) presentation. I’m really intrigued with your assertion that Twitter is basically just another online social application rather than something considerably more significant. For me it is the human component of Twitter that trumps what is at best a modest technical innovation – just variations on texting / blogging / social themes we’ve seen developing for years. I think I am assuming more explosive growth of Twitter as Twitter than you are with the idea that Twitter will effectively retreat to the background as something of a social infrastructure, independent from the website and closely related “Twitter” applications. I see this as the new “public” Facebook which will 1) Continue to shape and dramaticaly expand public discourse in the commercial, political, and personal space 2) Relegate Facebook to a family and friend interaction model (viable, but I think Twitter has killed much of FB’s revenue potential almost overnight by stealing the business buzz and offering better direct marketing potential).

    Twitter, like Soylent Green, is people, and there are a lot of people who have been looking for simple ways to “get tech”. This is their ticket.

  4. Me stir the pot? nah.

    My opening slides said something to the point of: “Twitter doesn’t matter” the second slide said “what matters is the web is now real time, mobile, and global”

    I’m going to look at the trends and impacts, not focus solely on the technologies. Taking a look around the web, it’s not just twitter that represents these features, Facebook, friendfeed, and how Gen Y uses text messaging is part of this.

    How about a global look: Tencent QQ in China has a very large social network (200 million users I think?) that makes twitter look like a pygmy. It’s primary feature is real time chat and IM. Same with South Korea’s Cyworld, a virtual world with lots of interaction, much in real time.

    I’m looking at trends –not point technologies. Twitter doesn’t matter, what matters is the web is real time, mobile and global.

    (no need for an apology, thanks for following up)

  5. Thanks Jeremiah, I really do appreciate your follow up detail. Need to think more about your notion that trends much more than point technologies are driving the bus to the future. The data I’d really like to see is hard to find: Twitter active subscribers, total sign ups, rate of growth, and perhaps most importantly their intentions wrt large scale development with their messaging platform. My gut says they are the first major company to really get developer transparency and open API architecture “right”, and that they will be rewarded very handsomely for doing just that.

  6. We are planning to measure some of this in our next Technographics survey to consumers.

    To me, it’s not just about measuring “do you use Twitter” but also “do you text, do you do status updates from sites like Facebook”

    Even Socialtext, and community platform vendors are starting to integrate “what are you doing” features like Twitter.

    My job is to track behaviors and trends –not just point technologies.

  7. It will be very interesting to see how developers and the community at large process the shift to social and “community driven” websites and experiences. I see Twitter and Facebook as brand identities playing the *key* roles as social integrators of the online world. Not so much because you can’t do what they do without them (you can), but because developers, users, and the businesses will want that kind of familiarity and association when they use social tools.

  8. Pingback: What Brands Want From A Twitter Client « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing

  9. i completely agree with jeremiah on this one. the gartner hype cycle is a pretty proven methodology that shows how technology after technology is launched with mass attention and evangelists telling each other that it is going to change the world. months later, it is just another footnote in the ongoing technology story. even when people are told that this happens, and shown research supporting it, they say “but this technology is different” and repeat the cycle.

    the bigger trends are certainly mobile as a maturing platform (finally) and real-time search. whether twitter wins or another brighter star eclipses it is, ultimately irrelevant.

  10. Remember CB radio? CD-ROM? Or, more recently, Pointcast? All had fanatical followings in their day and at the moment, there was certainly ample evidence if you went by mass adoption numbers alone.

    Is Twitter a remarkable tool that has singlehandedly led the way in new opportunities in crowdsourcing, discovery and more? Absolutely. But while Twitter is making smart investments in its ability to scale, its example has not gone unnoticed and has led the way for a number of unheralded infrastructure plays such as gnip, aws, vark and more.

    In the mid-90s there was a burgeoning movement towards what were called “tele-action” services, services that relied not on fat pipes, but the fast delivery of small messages. From SMS and real-time energy prices to smart home automation and 311 city services, there were a number of practical tele-action business cases that are just beginning to see the light of day fifteen years later, thanks to Twitter’s halo.

    We are in the early innings of what promises to be a long and very interesting game – stay tuned!!

  11. Ed and Brian thank you for checking in with good comments. I’m well aware of the hype cycle but unless I’m very mistaken we’ve rarely if ever seen other applications with so many users and such buzz fizzle out.

    Pointcast fizzled out, sure, but it never had this kind of usage level and was not a platform to intergrate as developers see fit (Twitters *killer* advantage over alternative systems). Unless I’m mistaken we have only seen this type of massive growth continue AFTER the initial first millions of users for aps that wound up becoming hugely successful. Myspace, Facebook, Google, Yahoo all exploded onto the scene over a few years and now are key players.

    Twitter won’t take over the world, but it’ll become even more of a household name and I’d estimate will top 100,000,000 users by the end of next year.

    Yes, I’ll bet some good money on that.