Twitter announced Monday that it was adding a new feature, aptly titled ‘Mute,’ to the popular social media platform. ‘Mute,’ as the name implies, allows Twitter’s 643 million active users to simply turn off tweets from friends, family, and celebs they’re following. The benefit? Well, we’ve all had that awkward experience where we unfriend or unfollow someone on social media, only to cause them to have hurt feelings in the real world. ‘Mute’ allows you to shut off the annoying political rants and infinite stream of baby photos without alerting and hurting your friends.
Is Twitter Creatively Bankrupt?
For the most part, news of the update has landed with more of a thud than a splash! Over the last six months, the little-bluebird-that-could has released a number of updates to their service, all of which seem to suffer from the same problem: Facebook did them first.
In March, the social media platform released a new photo function that allows users to add up to four pictures in a single tweet, while tagging their friends. Guess who did that first? In April, the company transformed Twitter’s traditionally simple user profiles into Facebook-like profiles that function like Twitter’s bigger cousin’s news-feeds, allowing followers to see what it is you’ve liked, retweeted, and replied to in one centralized area. Again, it certainly isn’t a bad feature — it’s even fair to say it’s a great feature — but there is nothing uniquely “Twitter” about it.
For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that Twitter isn’t the first tech company to “borrow” functionality from others, nor will it be the last. Facebook has spent the last year trying to steal Twitter’s most popular functionality in the form of trending topics and more relevant news feeds. The difference? Well, firstly, Facebook draws in over 10-times Twitter’s annual revenue of some $630 million dollars, meaning they can afford to weather any financial blow-back from less than exciting new features. Secondly, and most importantly, features that Facebook has borrowed, most notably the trending news feature, have done wonders for the service. 30% of Americans now get their news from Facebook, with only 16% turning to Twitter to stay informed. In other words, Facebook’s move to borrow while innovating has caused a paradigm shift in the industry. Unless Twitter can come out of its creative bankruptcy, chances are its fortunes will keep slipping.