Inside the E-Wars: So Long Twitter You're a Fad Going Bye-Bye?

By William Stanek
March 15, 2010

Twitter has been a fun experiment for me the past few months as I take a break from tech writing and focus on my creative side. Interesting, Twitter usage study out from Barracuda Labs. This annual report follows their 2008 report and includes both updates and comparisons. The biggest take away for me: Twitter is not nearly as popular or used as many people seem to think.


Of note is that currently:

  • 17% of Twitter users have zero followers and 20% of Twitter users are not following anyone as compared to 30% and 25% respectively in June 2008.
  • 74% of Twitter users have less than 10 followers and 60% follow less than 10 people as compared to 80% and 66% respectively in June 2008.
  • 34% of users have no tweets and 73% have less than 10 tweets as compared to 37% and 79% respectively in June 2008.

In fact, when you crunch the numbers, Barracuda Labs considers only 21% to be true Twitter users. Aside from occasional users (likely 20%), the rest are people who create accounts and forget them (likely 34%), use them for malicious purposes (likely 12%), etc. The report doesn't quite say the pop phenom days are numbered, but it does say the "Red Carpet Era" is over. That was Nov 2008 to Apr 2009.

So when I boiled it all down, I got this:

19 million accounts currently

  • 3.99 million real users
  • 3.8 million occasional users
  • 2.47 million somewhere between occasional and never use
  • 6.46 million never used or forgotten
  • 2.28 million used for malicious purposes

While all the good stuff (literally) is up front in the first 11 pages, keep reading. Pages 12 - 30 are eye-opening. Of most interest to me as someone who has been a repeat victim of malicious activities online is that as many as one in eight Twitter accounts are used for malicious activities. One of the favorites, and something I've been the victim of: poisoning trending topic threads. Here, the goal was primarily to lure Twitter users to sites with malware and other malicious content. It's also used to simply fill trending topics with hate and nonsense.

The full 30-page report.

Amazon definitely could learn a few things from the Twitter study. You don't reward malicious, hateful users you weed them out.

A surprising issue left out in all the talk of "Red Carpet" eras: the buying and selling of follows. You probably thought the follow suggestions for celebrities and such were real, right?

Not really, they've toned it down, twitter itself does less direct promos, but it still happens. It's how certain individuals and corporations get millions of followers quickly. But the glory days of 2008 and 2009 are gone and it could be we're at the twilight of twitter (or more likely a plateau where users/usage levels out and the real work begins).

Thanks for reading, time for me to get back to work! Hope you'll take a look at my new book Windows 7: The Definitive Guide. Also just released is my book Exchange Server 2010 Administrator's Pocket Consultant.

William R. Stanek
williamstanek at aol dot com

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