The Twittocalypse: Twitter & Terrible Tech Predictions

“Twitter is a fad.”

- Burt Helm, Business Week, April 2009

“Twitter is a fad that will slowly fade away.”

51% of Internet Evolution poll respondents, November 2008

“Twitter is next. The paradox is obvious: to grow, you need to remove friction from the medium. If it’s not easy and free to use, people won’t. But then it gets big and it becomes profitable, so people use it too much.”

Seth Godin, May 2009

Foretelling the fall of Twitter has lately become a meme du jour. Some of this is a contrarian knee-jerk reaction; some of this is the refrain of people that “just don’t get it” or have a luddite-like predisposition. These self-styled Cassandras are quickly gaining ground.

It is no longer just the uninitiated and tech-wary that are predicting Twitter’s demise (whether gradual or spectacular). Industry sages have joined the chorus of late, lending credibility to the notion and convincing more and more to follow suit. The reasons cited for this supposed Twittocalypse are too numerous to list, and their relative merits are beyond the scope of this post (and my patience).

Personally, I see a slow tapering off, but sustained popularity. I am no guru, however, and thus my opinion matters not. But what if I were a tech luminary? Such figures, though often correct, are not infallible. Many times they are so far off the mark, we are tempted to call their supposed genius in to question.

With Twitter in mind, let me say this: gurus, sages, prophets—whatever you term them—can be woefully, laughably wrong. Don’t let them convince you that Twitter is a sham, fad, or useless time-waster. Only you can make that decision for yourself, based on your experience, intellect and usage. Almost as important; remember that even if they are wrong about this, they can still remain influential and successful. They can still be deserving of “expert” status; they can even go on to change the world.

No better an illustration of this fact can be found than PC World’s The 7 Worst Tech Predictions of All Time. All of these people were heavy hitters at the time they uttered the following nonsense. Some faded in to obscurity and some continued to move up the industrial ladder. One is the richest man in the world.

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

- Thomas Watson, president of IBM, 1943

"Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."

-Darryl Zanuck, executive at 20th Century Fox, 1946

"Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within 10 years."

-Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum manufacturer Lewyt Corp., 1955

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

-Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet's continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."

-Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, 1995

"Apple is already dead."

-Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft chief technology officer, 1997

"Two years from now, spam will be solved."

-Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, 2004

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