Maggie Shiels

Has Twitter's popularity peaked?

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 12 Aug 09, 09:03 GMT

I know some of our readers are frankly sick to the back teeth of stories about Twitter, well now it seems a leading technology research company is in step with you and feels the buzz surrounding the microblogging service is set to blow up.

In Gartner's 2009 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report, the company charts what's hot and what's not in the world of technology.

To this aim, they have looked at the maturity of 1,650 technologies and trends in 79 technology, topic and industry areas.

Technologies that are peaking during 2009 include cloud computing, e-books like those from Amazon and Sony and internet TV like Hulu.

Gartner hype cycle graph

On the graph they are at the top of what the company has called "the peak of inflated expectations" with nowhere else to go but down by the looks of things.

Those technologies that have clearly lost their sheen include green IT, video teleprescence, social software and microblogging sites like Twitter.

According to Jackie Fenn, vice president and Gartner fellow as well as co-author of the book Mastering the Hype Cycle:

"Microblogging, in general, and Twitter, in particular, have exploded in popularity during 2009 to the extent that the inevitable disillusionment around 'channel pollution' is beginning".

Ms Fenn went onto say that services like Twitter are earning a place alongside e-mail, blogging and wikis:

"[E]nabling new kinds of fast, witty, easy-to-assimilate exchanges".

But surely that's good news? Well not according to Ms Fenn and her very impressive diagram which shows it is actually heading for the "trough of disillusionment." I don't fancy getting abandoned there any time soon!

Among the most hyped technologies of the year so far are cloud computing, media broadcasting, mobile device technologies, photovoltaic solar energy, virtualisation, enterprise information management and datacentre power and cooling technologies.

But what does Gartner mean by the hype cycle? Well it's about human nature. The cycle charts that crazy giddiness that goes arm and arm with something new and shiny to basically getting bored with it and then eventually realising its value and how it just fits into your life.

In the crystal ball gazing section of the study, Gartner predicts that RFID (those tags you get on products), 3-D printing, human augmentation, mobile robots, home health monitoring, wireless power and quantum computing are technologies that should be emerging into the so called "slope of enlightenment".

All this of course should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt.

As Reuters news noted, the report says:

"It will take up to five years for many of today's trendy technologies to become mainstream, including Web 2.0.
"Funny how long hype cycles take to pay out. Three years ago, in its 2006 Hype Cycle reporter, Gartner predicted Web 2.0 would go mainstream within just two years."

It doesn't take a Nobel prize winner to work out that the maths is way off somewhere.

So what do you think are the technologies to look out for along with the ones that are on their way out and have had their day?


  • Comment number 1.

    Hang on, surely that chart doesn't actually say that microblogging is "on its way out and (has) had (its) day."

    On the website, Gartner say that "we explored the nature of the vertical or Y-axis of the Hype Cycle in depth and determined that the variable it depicts is most accurately described as 'expectations'" - doesn't that just mean that the hype around Twitter has peaked and now is the time where we all realise that it isn't going to change the world in an instant so we all have to sit back, chill out a bit and work out how it could usefully fit into our lives.

    If it serves a purpose, it will start to emerge on the "slope of enlightenment", on its way to the mainstream, otherwise it will stay mired in the "trough of disillisionment".

    But surely the fact that Gartner have coloured it light blue (2-5 years to mainstream adoption) suggests that they think it will find a place in mainstream technology?

    Of course, Twitter itself may well have been and gone by then, but the concept of microblogging isn't necessarily dead.

  • Comment number 2.

    "I know some of our readers are frankly sick to the back teeth of stories about Twitter" You made me smile Maggie- and this is a very interesting blog.

    Good work!

  • Comment number 3.

    Ahh Maggies back...

    "I know some of our readers are frankly sick to the back teeth of stories about Twitter, well now it seems a leading technology research company is in step with you and feels the buzz surrounding the microblogging service is set to blow up."

    Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt here then.

    That over hyping a product can lead to the public being so annoyed with it that they shun it.

    Perhaps if Twitter wasn't pushed as "the big thing" when clearly it isn't the buzz wouldn't have been so big and therefore would not be dying down.

    All too often we see things described as being used by everyone, and by everyone they mean a select few who can either afford to, in the case of the iPhone, or actually want to in the case of Twitter.

    Twitter is a niche app, that as yet has not made it into the mainstream because the average joe has no use for it.

    When it does then media companies and the like can start hyping it up again and discussing whether the "bubble" has burst if the popularity of such apps wanes.

  • Comment number 4.

    Maggie, your opening paragraph has made my day. Thanks for acknowledging you at least heard us, even if you don't necessarily agree. :-)

  • Comment number 5.

    What makes me laugh is that after 2 months of Maggie reporting nothing but Twitter and the constant complaints about the fact, its a chart that Maggie takes notice of not the readers!
    And look at all the other technology on that chart that hasnt had anywhere near the same level of exposure on the BBC as Twitter has but looks far more interesting and important.

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh don't go Twitter, what would I fill my day with if it wasnt for you?

    The majority of my website's traffic now comes from my work Twitter account, and socially my friends (real & virtual) make use of it all the time, it's more accessible than email and less bloated than other sites like Facebook etc... I think it has found it purpose.

    For business's it has replaced RSS syndication as a way to drive traffic, and for personal social use it is hard to beat... I'd like to be the person who thinks of something better

  • Comment number 7.

    Maggie - it's not a matter of being "sick to the back teeth" about Twitter. I myself am pretty interested in the website, but I have serious concerns about the way the BBC is abusing its position to promote the website.

    Yes, you have posted some stories about the site that are justified, but the website has received far too much publicity across the BBC and it is in clear breach of the corporation's guidelines on promotion and advertising.

  • Comment number 8.

    I signed up to Twitter in September last year. Since then I have made 5 tweets just to confirm that I can tweet from my phone by texting and then a couple to test that my tweets can appear on my Facebook wall. At that point I realised how totally pointless it is and have not tweeted again.

  • Comment number 9.

    Just to check, I have made a non scientific survey of some of the postings and trying to be objective about them they range from mindless drivel with content like "yes teens do twitter, I'm doing it now" to pointless postings from people like Stephen Fry who you might imagine having better things to do. From him I would rather see a well crafted 250 words once a day and let him confine his contact with actual friends to the privacy of his phone/blackberry/PC

  • Comment number 10.

    @5: you hit the nail right on the head

  • Comment number 11.

    Again you misunderstand.

    We are not sick of Twitter, nor do most of us think (or wish) that it will dissaapear in any quick fashion.

    We are sick of the disproportionate amount of reporting about twitter here on the bbc.

    We all know journalists like it becaue it can do thir job for them.

    If it was in balance with other tech reporting (e.g. 1-2 stories a month maximum) then fair enough.

  • Comment number 12.

    An interesting graph.

    Interesting to see e-book readers are at the top of the hype curve. I looked into these recently, and in the end decided not to buy one. One of the supposed advantages is that you save the costs of printing physical books. Sounds good, doesn't it? At least it did until I discovered that downloading an e-book generally cost more than buying the equivalent paperback.

    I think that particular technology needs a heavy dose of common sense before it goes mainstream.

    I was surprised that Blu-Ray movies didn't appear on the graph. There's another technology that has a major common sense deficit. I watch my movies on a Linux computer. I contacted Sony's Blu-Ray department to ask them their attitude to watching their movies on Linux, and they told me that it would be illegal for me to do so.

    Now where does that put Blu-Ray on the curve when the people who sell the disks tell potential customers not to buy their product under threat of prosecution?

  • Comment number 13.

    Agreed with Hackerjack.

    Maggie, we want to see Twitter be a part of the rich pantheon of emerging Web 2.0 applications. And we want your reporting to take all web-based, and even non-web-based, applications into account. We are as 'sick' of Twitter as we are of Flickr, FriendFeed, TinyURL, Veoh, etc.

    As you mentioned; "Among the most hyped technologies of the year so far are cloud computing, media broadcasting, mobile device technologies, photovoltaic solar energy, virtualisation, enterprise information management and datacentre power and cooling technologies."

    Yes. They are among the most hyped. How about some balanced reporting covering them? Don't you see anything wrong with a single-issue tech blog?

  • Comment number 14.

    Glad to see that the hype around Twitter is dying down. Maybe when it does, all the spammers, self-style "marketing experts" and porn-brokers will bugger off. Then I can enjoy using it to catch up with people and news, without being constantly bombarded with crap that I don't want.

  • Comment number 15.

    "Among the most hyped technologies of the year so far are cloud computing, media broadcasting, mobile device technologies, photovoltaic solar energy, virtualisation, enterprise information management and datacentre power and cooling technologies."

    So why does the BBc hardly ever mention these? Like most people, i am happy for you to report about Twitter/Facebook/Myspace. The thing I am not happy for you to do is report about Twitter to the exclusion of all else, almost to the extent it sounds like the BBC is the official mouthpiece of Twitter or Facebook. (Even as I write this the possible launch of Facebook Lite to markets outside the UK is one of the top 3 main news stories!)

    I think it's sad that I use 2 sites for keeping me up to date on the news. One of those sites is the BBC, who do an amazing job giving a balanced view across the spectrum. The other is a site that does the same for technology.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'd also like to add that I am smack bang in the middle of the demographic that the BBC thinks they are appealing too. I Facebook, I Tweet, and I have an iPod.

    I also drive. So do 30 million other people in the UK alone. But we don't want hundereds of articles about how tarmac is considering launching a new tarmac product that is 8% cheaper for India and China, 40% of the text being copied directly from their press release telling us how amazing they are.

    An article is not interesting simply because what it is about is done by a lot of people.

    I bet you find lots of people read these Twitter or Facebook articles, but don't email them to friends. Why? Because after the first sentence they think, "This isn't news."

  • Comment number 17.

    This is a obviously a compromise article

    MS "I need to do another Twitter story"

    Editor "You can't, the scum are sick of it"

    MS "OK, how about I do the article about Twitter being less popular"

    Editor "Good, but find a company who has some meaningless opinion based stats to support it"

    MS "OK, I'll get them to put it into a meaningless opinion based graph so its simple for the fools"

    Editor "Trebles all round"

  • Comment number 18.

    I know some of our readers are frankly sick to the back teeth of stories about Twitter so here's another one to sicken you even more, see what I care.

    That's what it reads to me anyway.

  • Comment number 19.

    The greatest trick the BBC ever pulled was convincing its viewers that people use Twitter.

  • Comment number 20.

    I know, BeyondThePale, it's all a bit Soviet, really, isn't it?

    The People Use Twitter. The Social Elites Use Twitter. We Use Twitter. You Will Use Twitter.

    Every article in the past month that mentions Twitter reminds us all that a 'staggering' 45 million people use Twitter. Utterly falsifying the true nature of this usage - 45 million are 'signed up' to Twitter, but by no means use it on any basis that makes it an important part of their lives. But that's of no relevance, of course. Not to the BBC. As far as Maggie and her tweet-a-lot companions are concerned, each denizen of this 45 million-strong regime is thrust in front of Twitter throughout their waking lives, taking note of every banality and potential breaking news festivity that the BBC can capitalise on.

    As of now, I have done an awfully bold thing, and emailed the BBC complaints department, regarding the aforementioned (by many here) partiality, promotion and advertisement of Twitter as an unaffiliated commercial entity by the technology staff here, in breach of their impartiality protocols. I doubt I'll get much in the way of a response, though!

  • Comment number 21.

    Twitter was popular?

  • Comment number 22.

    I will unsubscribe to the Technology blog if there is nothing else to report on other than Twitter.

    Lets be honest, Twitters just rubbish for the average Joe unless your a lazy reporter...

  • Comment number 23.

    Oh, and by the way. I don't use Twitter. In fact, although I'd consider myself something of a technophile, I have never once visited the Twitter website.

    So I concur with those who think there are a few too many stories about Twitter on the BBC.

  • Comment number 24.

    Twitter is a wash. It's an empty format in search of monetisation that will never come. And yet every week I read how Twitter is "threatening" Facebook or Google or something on the back of inflated "user" numbers and gee-whizz PR puffery.

    As for ebooks? That stuff is the future. The Kindle might be a bit clunky, but fitting it onto a graph like this is like sitting in 1904 and saying that air-travel and cars are just a passing fad.

    Still - Gartner got their press coverage, so I suppose all's well that ends well.

  • Comment number 25.

    Chiefly Brit informal to chatter or babble pointlessly

    Informal a foolish or stupid person

    If Twitter is an amusing concatenation of these two words can I surmise that a twitterer is:

    A foolish or stupid person who chatters or babbles pointlessly?

  • Comment number 26.

    A Study by pearnanalytics ( ) shows that

    "Pointless Babble won with 40.55% of the total tweets captured; however, Conversational was a very close second at 37.55%, and Pass-Along Value was third (albeit a distant third) at 8.7% of the tweets captured."

    So not this wonderful news feed and media sensation that Maggie seems to keep claiming it is. It's as about as radical and new as sitting in the pub nattering over a few pints of beer.

  • Comment number 27.

    I have been around the web now for some 9 -10 years so I am not a newbie or a net virgin. I design websites etc, and blog along with the rest of them, but I simply don't 'get' Twitter. Theres no point to it. Its not for average pc users or even mobile ones, and not everyone has a mobile with a keyboard attached to it. Its over hyped very specialised and a niche 'application' (how I hate the work application which implies it is something of use, Twitter certainly is not!) Its all about the Me me meeee culture and the sooner 'networking' and twitting hit the trough of disillusionment and stay there, the happier I will be.

  • Comment number 28.

    Yes like all fads people will get bored of it. Twitter reminds me of one big IRC channel. I was 'tweeting' back in 1998.

  • Comment number 29.

    9 blogs in a month, 5 of them with a Twitter headline, even though this news is far more than just about Twitter, its a fascinating story but your thick coating of Twitter on every story habit is continuing with no inhibitions.

    Great story, shame about the angle. Again.

  • Comment number 30.

    It is spreading like swine flu. Nick Robinson has caught it

  • Comment number 31.

    Just to give you an idea of how inane twitter is, my mate registered an account for his posterior and he still managed to get followers for it.

  • Comment number 32.

    Like all services, Twitter's not going to be the "great new thing" forever, but I'm sure that after the hype fades it'll continue as a service that's useful **in moderation**.

    Not that the BBC seem to realise this, though - the endless attempts to promote Twitter an importance it doesn't deserve are becoming rather farcical. Just a few minutes ago the front page story "Tories hit back in NHS attack row" had the Twitter logo for an image... when the most important part of that politics story is Cameron's disagreement with the MEP and commitment to the NHS. Wouldn't a stock image of DC have been more appropriate? As a 22 year-old technophile I like the idea of services like Twitter, but I also know when too much is too much!

  • Comment number 33.

    Another example of how useful twitter is.

    Road closed in Herne hill this morning. Nothing on mainstream news, nothing on google (at the time - it appeared at about 11am).

    searched "herne hill" into twitter - led me to a local newspaper - already reporting on the shooting that happened overnight.

    In an immediate world, twitter gives you all the information you need (and more i'll admit) as soon as someone tweets it.

    i've therefore set up for all your up to the minute fashion needs. tweeted whenever fashion changes. by ninjas.

    of course - all spoken word is babble if you aren't interested.

  • Comment number 34.

    It's a very interesting looking graph. However it replicates a graph used by marketing professionals to describe the lifecycle of any product, from introduction to replacement.

    The initial peak is generated by "early adopters" - people who like to be at the cutting edge, who like to have the very latest and who just can't wait.

    Once the early adopters have been in, interest tails off as the market slowly becomes aware of the product and familiarity takes over.

    This is where the mainstream customer starts to purchase. The sales growth curve is not so steep as the early adopter curve but leads to a long plateau and then a slow decline - gerating far more revenue that the early adopter peak.

    I suspect that a lot of the products and services represented on this graph are simply replicating this early adopter / maturing technology adoption curve.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think the link to the Gartner report is not the tiMyurl :)

    Will be interesting to see if RFID goes anywhere, I have my doubts as to whether anything will be able to dislodge the ubiquitous barcode

  • Comment number 36.

    Wot, no blog post on today's shock revelation that 40% of what Twitter carries can be classified as '40% pointless babble'?

  • Comment number 37.

    The problem with all social networking sites is the abuse of the system via automated friend adding software. That is what swamps the system, filling the web with junk and spam. Popular Twitter adder followersplus spams out its promotional garbage on users accounts every four hours. That's a lot of tweets per day if they have 100,000 users...

  • Comment number 38.

    "I know some of our readers are frankly sick to the back teeth of stories about Twitter, well now it seems a leading technology research company is in step with you and feels the buzz surrounding the microblogging service is set to blow up."

    I wish someone would blow it up... I'm with Fishfingers who (back in August last year) was sick of it - and here we are in April and STILL the BBC hasn't learned that Twitter is commerical outfit out to make money... and you're advertising it.

    I propose that we purge the BBC of all trace of Twitter - and get back to basics.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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