Twitter’s just made a small change, ditching ‘Favourites’ for the Facebook-style ‘Likes’ signified by a heart – cue predictable complaints about Twitter turning into Facebook.
But this is a total distraction. While many people fret about how Twitter isn’t growing or isn’t as cool and fresh as it used to be, such complaints ignore some much bigger problems that plague the service.
Twitter is still a great platform and Likes probably make more sense than Favourites, but there are much bigger problems that Twitter needs to fix. Here’s my wishlist for the new CEO, Jack Dorsey
1. Sort out the abuse problem
This is Twitter’s no.1 problem and it knows it. Former CEO Dick Costolo admitted as much before he left, but it doesn’t seem to have made any progress.
The horror stories about people who have been bullied off Twitter are numerous, but how many more people have quietly left after less high-profile incidents?
Not only is it bad for users; it means big stories about Twitter tend to be ‘bad news’ ones about trolls, hate crime and extremists.
2. Defeat the spammers
I get fewer spam follows and tweets than I used to, but it’s clearly still a big problem. Express an interest in buying an iPhone, for example, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a bunch of spammy responses.
Again, if the first thing that happens when you start an account is get spammed, it isn’t an experience you’ll want to repeat.
3. Make lists good
Twitter lists are a good idea in principle, but Twitter has neglected the feature. Just try finding your Twitter lists in the mobile app and you’ll understand.
This is a problem because lists are the only way to organise and filter the people you follow. Unless you run a bunch of different accounts, it’s the only way to separate your personal friends from the mob, or get the latest from experts in a particular field.
The ‘noise’ on Twitter is often deafening and lists ought to be the answer, but they’re not right now.
4. Make TweetDeck a real power user tool
TweetDeck, the original Twitter client for power users, has gone through several painful periods over the years. Despite being owned by Twitter, it sometimes feels neglected and forgotten, which only alienates the power users who often produce the most interesting content on Twitter.
Some might argue a ‘proper’ desktop application – i.e. one that isn’t the web app in disguise – is what’s required, but that’s not it. I don’t care whether it’s a web app or not, but I do care whether it does what I want it to do.
A new mobile app would be nice, too.
5. Welcome back third-party developers
One of the most cited turning points for Twitter has been the limiting of APIs that allowed developers to access the service and create apps for it. Doing so has all but killed the community of developers that drove much of Twitter’s early growth.
This has also lead to a lack of competition. Is it any wonder TweetDeck has declined when there are fewer good alternatives, many of which have been forced to charge high prices due to Twitter’s limits on access for third-party applications?
But don’t ditch the 140 limit…
Finally, while Twitter has problems, the character limit must be preserved. It’s Twitter’s defining feature and one that forces people to think how to convey what they want quickly and simply. People will still find ways around it, but that’s half the fun.
Have you tired of Twitter, or do you still love it more than ever? Let us know in the comments