Twitter useage restrictions, list problems and potential user growth!!!

Introduction

While I have my own ideas on what twitter is up to, when it has to do with usage restrictions, list problems and growth (that includes the desire for twitter to have users pay–or advertisers–pay for some services that twitter provides), there are other views on where twitter is heading. So do make the effort to search for alternative views.

Content Table

  1. Where Twitter is Currently Heading
  2. The “New” Twitter dreaded “Sorry! You’ve hit your hourly usage limit! Try again soon” message
  3. Engineering Solutions to Twitters Problems
  4. Twitters expansion to a potential of 1,530,000% to a total 6,570,000,000 users
  5. The Lists Feature in Twitter has problems too
  6. References

Where Twitter is Currently Heading

I think twitter is feeling the heat and beginning to realize how big it could possibly become.

I will talk about just how big twitter could become (and its current increase in size into the mobile network) later in this article.

Businesses are also seeing that twitter could offer access to markets that were once considered costly to get into.

Considering also that twitter has possibly tried to play along with certain world governments on the censorship (Wikileaks [1]), I tend to see governments around the world that are starting to take a great interest in twitters activities.

If twitter ignores what I say here about expansion into the massive mobile telephone market, I suspect a new player will emerge that is similar to twitter and it will be unable to ignore the huge potential numbers of customers. However, if twitter plays it’s politics correctly (with government, businesses and the users that make it all possible) then I feel that twitter will be encouraged by others to expand also.

My guess is that business and government will encourage twitter to expand. We the users of twitter are the force that enables this expansion into those regions and translators will become an important technology to enable this.

The costs to us will be either in helping governments and businesses get their messages across to others around the world or for advanced programs (or apps as they are called today) that enable us to save time.

For example, twitter might have the following features in the future:

  • advanced statistics giving us a more accurate measure of people who visit our twitter account
  • twitter sticky notes that we can apply to users
  • the ability to get rapid updates for many users as we try to have discussions with a huge number of people who might tweet us at any time
  • pictures of things like networks to show who talks to each other
  • personal twitter accounts that have designs outside the twitter standard model and functionality to name a few possibilities.

As an engineer and technology person I am going to do some calculations below. Most of my calculations do not always end up 100% correct, but the ones done here are simple, are roughly correct, I have given references for those of you who are more technically minded, and you can have a go at making your own calculations if you like.

As for the rest of you, I would skip past the calculations and just look at the final figures.

In essence I predict that twitter could potentially increase its customer base (the number of people like you) by 1,530,000% to a total 6,570,000,000 users (close to the old 2009-2010 population level of the entire world). Around 1.6 to 2 billion of these users will have a computers and mobile phone. So it is possible the number might be as low as 4,570,000,000 users (but I do not consider this in my calculations below as the difference is only 30%).

The “New” Twitter dreaded “Sorry! You’ve hit your hourly usage limit! Try again soon” message.

If you get the dreaded: “Sorry! You’ve hit your hourly usage limit! Try again soon,” it means you will have to wait for 10 minutes before you can do anything again [2].

But according to twitters “Current Twitter Limits”, you can find the wait to be more like hours: about-twitter-limits-update-api-dm-and-following.

My best guess it that it is a sort of “fail whale message.” I got the message when I was doing nothing more strenuous then taking a look at my follower list, reading their tweets and deciding if I wanted to follow back. I also added some followers to my lists—but the list feature has not been working well either.

As mentioned above, I only had to wait about 10 minutes before I was able to use twitter again. But like the fail-whale, the (hourly usage limit) problem re-occurred with messages about update problems and try again later—but in this case at least my twitter remained partly functional at least; it just refused to update.

Engineering Solutions to Twitters Problems

I will be discussing what I think might be some engineering problems and solutions for twitter in another article.

Twitter will need major changes in how twitter works and looks in the future if Twitter actually intends to rapidly expand it’s membership by 1,530,000%.

Translators will certainly be a major challenge if we are to easily communicate across the globe.

Twitters expansion to a potential of 1,530,000% to a total 6,570,000,000 users

This number may seem a little large to you, but Foursquare grew 3,400% in 2010, so I don’t think Twitters expansion into the world wide market that includes mobile telephones is unrealistic: Number of users of Foursquare grows to 10,000,000.

Twitter is playing a very serious game here and its about expansion,

Twitter is playing a very serious game here and I’m not talking about lists or odd service restriction messages here! Twitter took on the mobile phone network—an innocent sounding addition to most of us for sure. However from a communication engineering point of view their choice to do this was frightening and yet adventurous in the extreme.

Growth Potential of Twitter

To give you a feel of the numbers involved here:

  1. World population: 6.79 billion people [4]
  2. Internet users: 1.571 billion people [5]
  3. Mobile phone users: 4.009 billion people [6]
  4. (100,000 registered users of twitter)/(1.57 billion internet users)= 0.0000636 (assuming that the 100, 000 registered users does not include mobile phone users here)
  5. (1.571+4.009)*1.21*0.0000636*1000000000= 429,414 registered users ( this includes computer users + mobile phone users + future users based on population growth)
  6. Growth of customers for twitter would then be 429414/100000 = 4.29 or 429% based on adding the: mobile phone users and population increase to the original figure.

If population growth continues at the current rate (and from my studies population growth is not something that is easy to predict—it has been tried before by the club of Rome for example—we can expect around 1.4 billion new people each year (an increase of 1.21% per year [3]).

If we assume that all mobile phone users and internet users are registered users of twitter:

In essence Twitter has expanded by 355% to 1.571+4.009=5.580 billion users. If the population has expanded by 1.4 billion people (121% increase per year [3]) then that figure could be even higher—the expansion would now be 429% for twitter.

To put this in your perspective: if you have 1000 followers, then an expansion of 429% means you have now got 4290 followers. If you don’t intend to ignore these new followers you are going to either have to work four times as hard or find more efficient ways to work or socialize with so many users. Many businesses and famous people face this dilemma and deal with it in many different ways.

However, when we talk about an increase from 1.57 billion people to total of 5.58 to 6.75 billion people (if we include population expansion), we are talking about a massive amount of resources or research to make systems more efficient. The other option is to lose some time and resource intensive features of twitter—for example the list feature.

In truth the estimates of total registered twitter users are currently around 100,000

If we follow the above figures but assume that twitter only has around:

Consolidating the figures here and the above figures, we can see that twitter will either have to work around four times as hard, use more resources and/or become more efficient.

Worse however (but twitter may not think so), is that twitter has the potential to grow from 429, 414 users to a whopping 6,570,000,000 users. That is, the size of the registered twitter users could go as high as 15,300 times as big as it current predicted future size (or 1,530,000% of current size).

If this increase was from 1.57 billion users to 6,570,000,000 users we would of course be hearing about it by now, so it obviously has not happened. However most of us do know our population is increasing and that people can tweet from their mobile phones.

The reason that adding mobile phones to the twitter network could be huge is that a lot of poor people may not (as yet) have access to a computer, but they do have access to a telephone! If twitter can interest these people into making the occasional tweet, the gain in registered twitter users could be huge and it will allow businesses access to places that might have been impossible before!!!

One thing you should be aware of here is that I assumed the mobile telephone users do not have computers and in some ways this is correct, because why would you use a mobile telephone if you have access to a computer. In poor areas, users may be able to have access to a mobile phone but not a computer so again my assumption is reasonable.

Never the less I should note here that in more developed countries people will often have mobile telephones and a computer. So it is possible that 1.5 to 2 billion people (if we assume all the worlds internet users and mobile phone users are registered users of twitter) will only use one twitter account with both their mobile phone and computer. Thus the potential customer base shrinks by 2 billion to 4.57 billion for example.

The Lists Feature in Twitter has problems too

Some of the problems with working with list can be solved by switching back to the old twitter (but what happens when the old twitter is no longer available) [3].

My own opinion about lists are:

1. The new twitter is designed to reduce the effect of lists. No longer can you immediately spot what lists you have added a person to. Instead you must click on each persons list button to see this information. I think this is a sign that twitter is having technical and theoretical problems with lists—as mentioned in point three.

2. The list feature is not core to the new twitter design. The fact is that the lists are not working well on the new twitter design. I have found problems with adding people to lists and others have also had issues with lists. Going back to the old twitter to use the lists will not be an option soon and so there seems to be no easy fix to this problem [2]. Had the list feature been a core to the design I don’t think that this problem with the lists would exist!

3. Coming from an engineering background that included communications theory (yes that means computer and telephone networks at a national scale) I could see problems with the twitter lists feature—because the way it was implemented was causing the use of resources that twitter seems to be short of (pinging the servers by millions of users). I use lists as a sort of shorthand note system to give me a quick summary of the thousands of people I follow. While an update of one of their current tweets is appreciated, I would simply be pleased with an integrated view of what list they belong to (as occurred in the old twitter design—granted the formatting of the lists on the screen was not always perfect). From an engineering point of view, this would not need a constant ping of resources as the list feature—being static (except when I edit it)—need not be updated every time and thus valuable twitter resources are saved.

4. If lists are not core to twitter, then it is quite possible that they wish to phase out this feature. In point three, I mention that they should perhaps not phase it out but rather alter the way lists work into a (static) note like system. Sure, it would still be possible to see what the current user has said by looking at the main twitter home-page, but you could also expand that page to see everything they say—and this is possible in both the new and old twitter.

5. There has been some comments that people don’t use list. In a way that might be true. Lists are very restrictive–but they are the best people had in the past to order their collection of contacts. Newer methods of ordering collections of people have become available, but yet lack twitters feature of putting the entire lists tweets on a single time line. If twitter does not act on ordering the collections of people that one meets on the world wide web, then I suspect that twitter will eventually become irrelevant in the near future as people start to feel extremely restricted by the engineering structures twitter has allowed to be built into it. Lists should stick around until a better more visual way can be found to handle the large groups people we might meet.

References:

[1]

[2] http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2370135,00.asp

[3] http://support.twitter.com/groups/32-something-s-not-working/topics/117-following-problems/articles/182003-problems-with-lists-known-issue

[4] http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=world+population

[5] http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=total+internet+users

[6] http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=mobile+phone+users

Shortened link to article: You’ve hit your hourly usage limit! Try again soon” message [article]: http://bit.ly/h0n8OQ

Shortened link to article: Twitters problem with lists [article]: http://bit.ly/h0n8OQ

Shortened link to article: Twitter could see a huge growth in membership (1,530,000% inc.) as it expands into mobile telephone network [article]: http://bit.ly/h0n8OQ

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