By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
A band member can microblog a tour and not just throw out concert dates and Web addresses at random scheduled intervals.
"Bands and artists are their own business, and many of them can't afford huge marketing campaigns, so social media levels the playing field between them and major labels. Now, bands can build their own fanbase without having to be picked up by a record label," Rodriguez adds.
As with any online phenomenon, there is an all-too-indefinite sell-by date, which for some is further off than others. MySpace toppled Friendster and LiveJournal to reign supreme from 2003 until late 2008, when there was a mass exodus to the shiny, easier interface of Facebook. And even before that, AOL's Instant Messenger and chat room services were the standard when it came to interpersonal communications.
Recently, there has been a wave of dissenters among former Twitter power users who have grown cold to the site. Singer John Mayer (@johncmayer) came out firing at a recent industry function, decrying Twitter for what he considered to be its unhealthy opening of the floodgates of "other people's approval/disapproval," when up until just a few months ago he had boasted almost three and half million followers. He offered up the blogging service Tumblr as his personal replacement—there's more space to post larger amounts of text, audio clips and video files—and offered this quote: "That funny feeling you have when reading more than one paragraph is your brain growing again. It will pass, leaving you in a beautiful orange mist of thoughts and ideas."
According to Mike Merrill, most people who join Twitter don't "get it," and end up leaving after growing frustrated with not grasping the site's fast, expansive landscape.
"There's a ton of people on Twitter, but a lot of those people are not active. There's a statistic out there that says some 60 percent of people that join Twitter leave in 30 days because they just don't understand it."
There are other Web sites and online applications that have been hailed as possible Twitter killers, but none have had the same heft and ease of use as Twitter. Plurk is a Twitter clone that is popular in Asia, yet it hasn't caught on in the United States.
Gallucci thinks that Twitter must reorganize itself to remain competitive, listing what it has going against it.
"They have no revenue model, no cash, and the site constantly crashes. Facebook is about to roll out the same features as Twitter in a shinier package. It could become less relevant and die a slow, painful death if it doesn't evolve like Facebook, which itself is now Google's biggest competitor. More people traffic and trust Facebook than they do Google, and no one ever thought that would happen."
As Facebook expands, the site has grown increasingly connected to paying advertisers, who can now conduct direct market research through users' profiles depending on how much information is made public or kept private. This is a move away from Facebook's origins as a site where users could show off their new party pictures, keep up with friends from school and maybe post the occasional online article.
Twitter is still sans that degree of interference—there are no sponsors or advertisers paying for space on the site—thus no one is looking for buzzwords in users' updates to spread the gospel of Coca-Cola. Where Facebook has fallen into the same trap that befell MySpace and Friendster before it, Twitter seems nearly impenetrable for now.
Twitter is the current lode bearer for everyone's shared experiences and the holder of the zeitgeist for more than 75 million people across the planet, but Cohen can see Facebook completely enveloping what Twitter has accomplished these past four years.
"Facebook is the new Internet. It could one day do everything that Twitter, Amazon and Foursquare do now but in one site. Twitter only allows 140 characters, and Facebook offers so much more. But if people continue to use Twitter in the right way, I don't see it going away," Cohen says.
In the end, Twitter has helped people forge friendships and break down barriers. As much as technology has encroached on humanity in these modern times, it's also united and reinvigorated the human experience.
"The great thing about Twitter is that you are bringing people together with a common interest. Since I have been on Twitter and started the blog, I have made more friends since September than I have had in my whole life," Rascoe says. "It all started out with me talking about tacos."