The tech world loves its symbols.
And few are more symbolic than Twitter itself.
This immediate barometer of the world’s charm pulsates 24 hours a day with everything that everyone needs to have an opinion about.
Well, when I say “everyone,” I mean a relatively narrow band of media types, PR people and others who want to be part of the “everyone who’s anyone” brigade.
When Twitter replaced its yellow star symbol (for “favoriting”) with a red heart (for “liking”) on Tuesday, everyone-who-is-anyone felt rather miffed.
Favoriting is clearly different from liking. And liking is what the universal suck-up Facebook does. Facebook is so mass, while Twitter is, you know, exclusively where it’s at.
Twitter’s problem is, of course, that it is exclusively where it’s at. It doesn’t make enough money. So it believes that placing a heart at the heart of its offering will bring in more people
Akarshan Kumar, a company product manager, explained: “The heart…is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”
Twitter wants to be universal. Those who drive it — that is, those who post the most, argue the most, are gawked at the most — want it to be their exclusive little domain.
To suddenly be confronted with something as non-exclusive and as overused to the point of mundanity as a heart was to be confronted with the very reality at Twitter’s heart: It either goes mass or gets swallowed.
But if it goes mass, what will there be to love? If it goes mass, will it be the Twitter that the core audience loves, at least in part for its visceral bucketload of unedited bile?
What will it become instead? The worry is that it’ll be another Facebook, with a slightly different look and feel, but only slightly.
The deeper worry for many who love Twitter now is that the red heart is just the start.
Every new step the company makes now will be an indication that it’s seeking a greater audience. Every alleged innovation will be designed to make it broader and simpler. Every development will be an argument for inviting in precisely those who may destroy the club’s atmosphere.
Somewhere right now there are creators who are ready to take Twitter’s more “exclusive” audience to a place where they will feel happiest — and a place where the owners know how to make money.
And what will Twitter be then?