I saw this at New World Notes:
It's the final slide from a presentation Linden Lab Chief Product Officer Tom Hale gave at the Web 2.0 summit. Now, Tom's demonstrated his tech and marketing savvy during his presentations at the Second Life Community Convention this year, talking about the various ways Second Life will evolve. I won't get into it here, but just want to establish that when I disagree with Tom, it's not because I don't think he's right on with lots of other things.
In any event, Wagner points out in his blog that, "What protects Twitter from Second Live level backlash is one essential thing Twitter's already achieved: Immediately perceivable, substantial impact beyond its user base."
Or, it's that Twitter is Free.
I think there's a more fundamental answer - and that is that Twitter is free. What are one's expectations of a free platform, which only takes a minute for a user to contribute content? Little. And so, when celebrities and brands are able to reach out to fans in an informal, friendly sort of way, it's easily justifiable. What's interesting is that Twitter winds up reaching out to the same numbers as Second Life. Celebrity Twitter accounts peak out at about a million users, and, like Second Life, a lot of those users are inevitably inactive. (I can't find the link to it, but I read a study just a week or so ago showing that, sure enough, most Twitter accounts went inactive. Maybe someone else saw the article and could post it in comments here?) But, it's easy to justify, "Hey, Twitter only reaches out to tens of thousands of users, but it's free." And when you look at Dell Computers, who claimed in June that they've raked in $3million from Twitter sales, it's pretty obvious that Twitter's a no-brainer for many companies.
Of course, you only get 140 characters to speak to your user - far less information than a television ad. It's not even an image - which Facebook has implemented with their instant-newsfeed section. Facebook's actually got an edge up in the technology - they have "fan" pages you can follow and not have to worry about friending them, and still get the status updates. But Facebook doesn't play nice like Twitter - where Twitter has a full API for programmers to go nuts and provide all sorts of third-party Twitter applications. But I digress.
Comparing Apples and Orange ... Spaceships.
Twitter also isn't a fundamentally new idea. Twitter is basically aggregating the essence of what you already used the web for - to keep up with your friends, colleagues, the news, and celebrities. It just condensed things. Second Life, on the other hand, (along with virtual worlds in general) are a whole new interface apart from the regular Internet. Second Life is immersive, can simulate in 3-D, can foster both real-time community interaction as well as asynchronous communication through its permanence in-world. It's really difficult to compare the hype of Twitter with that of Second Life - it's like apples and orange spaceships.
So what kind of backlash will we expect from Twitter?
There has already been Twitter backlash. The most obvious type is when celebrities say stupid things, which happens enough that handlers of celebs are starting to ban them from using Twitter. Then there are the celebrities who get pissed off because, well, there are jerks on the Internet. An example is Trent Reznor, who was upset after realizing that the Internet is not full of mature adults, and some of them will snipe at you given the chance. There's also a recent article from UK's Telegraph claiming that Twitter costs the British economy billions of dollars. Because, you know, people aren't going to waste their time chatting about trivial things with their coworkers anyway, like ... oh, say, sports-game-du-jour. Whatever.
Will we see more companies and celebrities pulling off Twitter? Sure. Will it matter? Twitter had millions of users before it had companies and celebrities - just like Second Life. But for that matter, the "mass exodus" that's been touted about Second Life was really just a few loud-mouth companies who had shoddy virtual world executions blaming the platform for their perceived failure. There's still a ton of companies, universities, and non-profits working with Second Life, and there will continue to be the same using Twitter.
The real threat to Twitter is that it's such a simple interface, and it can be copied and improved upon. I mean, we just got the Lists feature on Twitter, after asking for it for what? 3 years? Twitter still regularly fail-whales with over capacity, especially with a major news story that breaks, which is *exactly when you want to be able to use Twitter*. Facebook could easily add a "public status update" option and compete. Or, the various Twitter competitors already out there could steal the show. Remember that MySpace used to be king before Facebook, and Friendster before MySpace. If I were Twitter's execs, that's the kind of backlash I'd be watching.
I saw this at New World Notes: