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Can Twitter Survive What Is About to Happen to it? I think that is the wrong question…

The explosive rise of Twitter in the last couple of months is giving rise to a couple of phenomena, and to some these trends are harbingers of doom: More than a few people are asking if Twitter can survive what is happening to it, in it’s current form. And the answer is surely that it can, at least from an infrastructure perspective.

I would pose the question differently: How can Twitter continue to deliver value as a meaningmaking and sensemaking tool for its users?

A couple of examples that illustrate what is happening:

Tweepme, a ponzi-like scheme that would have you pay for followers, in return to following everyone else, is causing a lot of controversy with its concept: Ultimately with this concept everyone would follow everyone else, and this becomes meaningless very quickly. Cheryl Harrison writes in her blog that Twitter is not a numbers game:

Is there value in having a large, worthless network on Twitter?  While I might not agree with it 100%, I can see the value of connecting with everyone on LinkedIn – in the most direct benefit, this lets you contact other people to whom they are connected for free, without having to pay for InMails and whatnot. But on Twitter – you just crank up the noise and turn down the substance.

At the SXSW conference in Austin Texas, the traditional paradigm of having a Twitter based backchannel to find interesting topics and keep up with what was happening was made meaningless by the sheer volume of tweeps coming through the service. Stacey Higginbotham writes in her piece Forget the Fail Whale: Twitter Jumps the Shark

Twitter is still up and running, but the idea of generating a real time picture of what folks are doing, and extracting relevant information from that picture, is kind of like trying to pick out your grandma at the Washington Mall on the satellite image taken during President Barack Obama’s inauguration. It’s easy to see that a lot of folks were there, and hard to find that one thing you’re looking for.

The trend is apparent: Twitter, as we know it, is about to change. And, to use another shark metaphor, it needs to “keep swimming”  to stay alive; it needs to keep evolving in order to provide meaning to its users.

So the question raises itself: How can Twitter continue to provide “meaning” for its users? Read more