Stephen Foley: Tweet this: unsatisfied customers are not a good basis for expansion


US Outlook: I am a sporadic tweeter but a keen consumer of tweets. As anyone using Twitter knows, it is a great way of listening in to the thoughts of smart people (or dumb celebrities, if that's your bag), and of keeping up with the latest news.

Yet my relationship with Twitter, like a lot of people's, is love-hate, which is why I haven't decided if it is on a Facebook trajectory, towards world domination, or a MySpace trajectory, towards – oh dear.

News arrives this week that Twitter is close to acquiring TweetDeck, which developed the most popular app for sifting and sorting all those tweets, for $40m or more. Until recently, the firm has appeared happy to let developers build businesses using Twitter content as their raw material. Now it seems intent on controlling any and all revenue there is to be made.

This is good business sense and not unfair. Congratulations to TweetDeck, and hard cheese for the unchosen few who built similar businesses on Twitter's content, only to find Twitter going into competition with them. Except that Twitter should get its own house in order before it starts bringing TweetDeck and other apps in-house.

Many of the external developers who flocked to build Twitter-related services have given up for fear of being put out of business on a whim by Twitter itself. Their absence puts greater onus on Twitter to provide a quality experience for users and a reliable platform for advertisers and any other businesses that want to pay for access. On this score, and to the increasing impatience of many, Twitter's own website and apps fall short.

Some frustrations are just bugs in the system and it is mystifying why they haven't been identified and fixed. Others are more fundamental irritations. The window for dealing with them, before users start drifting away in disillusion, seems to me to be narrowing fast.

So, Twitter, here are 10 things I hate about you:

*Tweets from people I am following sometimes do not show up in my feed.

*Twitter.com is repeatedly "unable to load earlier tweets".

*Refreshing a page containing the results of a search query fails to bring in the latest tweets.

*The number of followers it says I have is sometimes different from browser to browser.

*Having to put "http://" at the start of links is a waste of precious characters.

*The "top tweets" that appear in search results are rarely the ones I am looking for.

*It is impossible to easily follow interesting conversations that occur when two Twitter users are replying to each other.

*Searching for a topical subject throws up tweet after tweet linking to the same news stories.

*Robots are running rampant, automatically retweeting or messaging people based on key phrases and clogging the system with spam.

*The official Twitter app for my iPhone stopped working a month ago and inexplicably gives me nothing but the message: "Private account". The app was created by outside developers and acquired by Twitter last year. I swear it worked when they bought it.

Twitter was notorious for service outages its early days, and in that respect has improved immeasurably, but it is still far too buggy, clunky and unsatisfying.

Its failure to match up against the development prowess of lesser-funded internet businesses is no doubt partly the result of management turmoil at the company. The return of the founder, Jack Dorsey, might have been cause for optimism, were he not going to split his time between Twitter and his more recent start-up, Square.

Yes, I know I am getting Twitter free, but that is no longer an excuse. The company's exponentially growing user numbers have helped it attract more than $300m of investment at ever-increasing valuations, and I just want to ask those investors: what is a customer worth if they are an unsatisfied customer? I for one refuse to take Twitter's purported valuation of $7.7bn seriously until the product starts to feel less like a beta test from a hand-to-mouth start-up.

So far the company has survived in spite of itself, with nourishment from the ecosystem around it. Its bid for TweetDeck demonstrates that it wants to control more of the user experience for itself – but is it competent?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us