Frankly, I think Twitter does a horrible job educating its users, the media and the general public on how very useful, dynamic and customizable it is. I think most people consider it a toy, a mere 140-character version of Facebook.

Can Twitter Break Out?

Earlier this month, at Wired's "Disruptive by Design" conference, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told attendees:
I'm never going to optimize for short-term revenue at the expense of either the UI or the longevity of the company. If people think we're going about it too cautiously, I don't care. I appreciate everyone's concern for our business, but it's working phenomenally well.

That mirrors Facebook's approach; in fact, Facebook lists pretty much what Costolo said as a "risk" in its S-1 filing.

Twitter also faces a headwind shared by Facebook as well as companies such as Pandora ( P) : How to better monetize users, particularly on mobile platforms?

While I cannot speak for the great entrepreneurs like Costolo, Zuckerberg and Pandora's Tim Westergren, I think it's safe to say that they believe monetization (revenue followed by profits) comes from providing the best user experience possible. The core goal is not to make money, but deliver to users; these guys feel that if they do that, the stuff that makes Wall Street happy will naturally follow.

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Zuckerberg said as much in his recent letter to prospective shareholders:
... Facebook was not originally founded to be a company. We've always cared primarily about our social mission, the services we're building and the people who use them. This is a different approach for a public company to take . . .

Simply put: we don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services.

And we think this is a good way to build something. These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits ...

We don't wake up in the morning with the primary goal of making money, but we understand that the best way to achieve our mission is to build a strong and valuable company

Of the newly public and soon-to-be-public companies, you'll find none better than Facebook, Twitter and Pandora ( P). And I can tell you right now that Costolo and Zuckerberg's words serve as the cornerstone of each perpetual startup's culture.

At day's end, Facebook has real limits to how far it can go as a social excursion. Don't get me wrong, it will continue to grow and end up a solid long-term investment, but it will never replace more primitive, personal and easier ways to communicate - you know, things like texting, talking on the phone and, you remember, meeting other people in person!

As an excellent Gigaom article discussed, Twitter is taking a page out of Pandora's book as it helps "push the Internet into 'discovery' phase" with a new feature that aims to make the user experience more relevant and personalized. This is important and can lead to considerable disruption.

Just as Pandora is making traditional radio obsolete with its proprietary brand of personalized radio, Twitter can render other information clearinghouses and pathways to knowledge just as useless. I'm convinced Facebook's days of disruption are pretty much over. For most people, Facebook will act as a mere supplement to our social lives. While that's big and worthy of investor attention, don't expect Facebook to change the game again in any meaningful way.

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