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April 13, 2009

Robert Scoble, you are wrong about Twitter

I read a piece by Robert Scoble  over the weekend which really got under my skin. For a tech blogger he seems to miss a few really important lessons from history relating to how technology companies are successful.

His rant was really about functionality, and the fact that FriendFeed is a lot more functional than Twitter. To explain his point further he rants on about how easy it is to find a photo on the Hudson Plane Crash in Twitter and then on FriendFeed.

This is where it all starts to go astray... Robert, mate, everybody else would have used Google Images .

Maybe it is his Microsoft heritage, but while his stuff is good for discovery of new things on the web. He has almost never been very good at pointing out how businesses can use these new programs and new technologies to make more money. (Goal number 1, remember?)

So it is no wonder he missed the point.

First, very few programs or sites are successful based on functionality. In fact, practically none. This is a lesson that consultants learned a long time ago.

  • Google was not more functional than Yahoo, Google Docs are not more functional than Office.

  • was not more functional than Hyperion (when it came out)

  • LinkedIn is not more functional than Facebook.

The list goes on and on. In fact, people still debate the relative merits of Betamax and VHS or HD and BluRay.

Yet Google is winning the internet search game, LinkedIn is winning the professional networking game, and is the clear market leader of CRM. Period.

Why is this?Because functionality doesn't count, not at the beginning anyway.

Focus. They focus incredibly intensely on their core business, they become very very good at it, and they start a bushfire of talk about it.

Then they invest in leadership. Then the start to pull away, to make sure that they will be the only reasonable choice, and to put additional barriers between themselves and their competition. Monetizing the Twitter serviuces has yet to come. But hopefully it will be more analytical than just additional searching type stuff.

(The entire internet cannot be subsidized by Adwords and similar advertising schemes - surely)

It isn't about functionality, not at first.