The Logged Out User (continued)

I brought this subject up a while back. It's a big one that doesn't get enough attention.

And yesterday we got some stats from Twitter that I'd like to talk about. Dick Costolo gave a "state of Twitter" press conference yesterday at Twitter HQ. Danny Sullivan was there and live blogged it. Here's the part of Danny's live blog that I'd like to focus on:

100 million active users.

over 400 million monthly uniques just to, according to Google Analytics

An active user is a Twitter user that logs into the service. So that means that 75% of Twitter's users don't log in every month.

The press in the audience asked the right question, "why do people behave that way?" and Dick used my mom in his reply:

Fred Wilson’s mom … checks Fred’s twitter stream.

We also got some stats on what the logged in users do.

40% of our active users now don’t tweet, way up from beginning of year. “We’re excited about that. I think that’s super healthy"

And the press asked the same question "why do people behave that way? and again Dick used my family in his reply:

His (fred's) son uses Twitter each day on iPhone and just follows NBA players. “For him, that’s Twitter.” Just reading what people say.

There's a reason why Dick used my mom and my son in his examples. I've been bending his ear about this behavior for years. I see so many people around me who either don't have a Twitter account and just read profiles and search results like they read blogs or people who have accounts and just follow certain people, create lists, and who login to Twitter to use it like an RSS reader.

Let's remember one of the cardinal rules of social media. Out of 100 people, 1% will create the content, 10% will curate the content, and the other 90% will simply consume it. That plays out on this blog, that plays out in Twitter, and that plays out in most of the services we are invested in.

Twitter has 400mm active users a month, 100mm of them are engaged enough to log in, but only 60mm tweet. For years people have made it out like this is a bad thing. It's not a bad thing. It is an amazing thing. Let people use the service the way they want and you'll get more users. Logged out users are users just like logged in users. We should focus more on them, build services for them, and treat them like users, not second class citizens.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Exactly right, but the question is Can Twitter monetize out of that audience? It’s time they do do it.Twitter has something that Google doesn’t. Twitter is a read/write platform. Google is not (except for G+ which is a complicated emulation of Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn).

    1. fredwilson

      when the content is the monetization units (promoted tweets) the monetization goes wherever tweets go

      1. William Mougayar

        I hope Twitter sees monetization way beyond promoted tweets.

        1. fredwilson

          they also have promoted accounts and promoted trends

          1. William Mougayar

            Are these 2 schemes enough to scale their revenues to massive numbers? I find it hard to believe. There are other ways they will need. Promoted trends/tweets appeal mostly to large companies that can afford them. Twitter needs a pricing model for something anyone can afford to spend on, from $5 to $5 million /year, a bit like Google Adwords, but more creative. 

          2. fredwilson

            you are confusing the ad delivery method with the way it is sold/bought

          3. leigh

            Most big co’s are trying to increase their digital spend by double digits in the next say, 2 yrs which makes ad models more viable then they should be…  (most had underspent and are trying to catch up).the good thing for most start ups (i’ll put Twitter in this camp from the perspective that they are still figuring out their business model) is even huge brands have pretty unsophisticated measurement tools and models.  I of course, love this, as it’s a great way to start a new conversation with old clients, but at the same time, it’s kinda shocking the $$$’s spent vs. the lack of rigor assessing how that $$$ drives business.  

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. testtest

        The content as the monetization unit is what makes Google’s revenue model work so well.It aligns intent at the point of consumption. With the organic content, and paid content being equally useful (for the most part).There needs to be more fragmentation; unique slices of informational sets to monetize. It’s the long tail. By aggregating trends there’s currently a focus on the head. Limiting the monetizational surface area.”According to AdAge, the ten biggest AdWords spenders accounted for only 5% of Google’s US revenue during June.”From:…An example is a content recommendation engine attached to twitter (or even in the stream), this would give each user a unique slice more aligned to the individual. Allowing for more companies to advertise; an order of magnitude more.The example is to illustrate the mechanism rather than suggest the ideal.  Edit: added line breaks. They got removed.

  2. Julien

    “Let people use the service the way they want” ++++

    1. BradDorchinecz

      I agree Julien. I felt bad until yesterday that I only read other people’s tweets and don’t tweet much myself. Now I know there are millions just like me. We’re still an important part of the ecosystem.

      1. JamesHRH

        Do you feel bad watching TV?Just kidding – most people are the audience.

  3. markslater

    i never understood why people mistakenly try and measure usage by some kind of contribution metric. I am a far bigger consumer than contributor on a whole host of services. I like it like that.  It does not mean that my value to that service is diminished.

    1. LIAD

      how do you contribute to a user-generated-content business by not generating content?

      1. markslater

        by reading what others generate. occasionally taking that, and pushing it on through my networks. its far less tangible for sure but i know it has value. readers are feedback loops to services. contributors are the creators of the content that enable the feedback loops.

        1. awaldstein

          Well said…It’s not naturally to think that all will create content and take the stage.The power of this whole model is that what creators need is audiences and listeners. If out of a 100, we get 10 creators, this will continually fan out at the bottom.This is all goodness and nailed to human nature and economically all upside over time.



        1. JamesHRH

          Working up to a fleshy buffet. +1.

    2. fredwilson

      but when you do contribute, the value of the service goes up. i know a little bit about that

      1. kirklove

        Fred I have to disagree a bit. I’ve been actively diving back into Twitter the last two months contributing and trying to engage and I’ve gained little to nothing. People don’t respond to my @messages or Tweets or engage at all with me. Because let’s face it on Twitter I’m a nobody. And that’s the trend with Twitter that I see the most. It’s shifting to a Celebrity, Athelete and sadly popularity contest. Even Twitter’s own blog post the other day sadly touted only famous people.I can understand why as a big portion of their audience are lurkers. I get it. Though to say contributing increase values, at least in my case, is wrong. It leads to frustration and feels like shouting at a very loud and crowded cocktail party where no one gives a shit what you have to say.

        1. JamesHRH

          This is true. Social media is still social and status drives social interaction

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. John Duncan

        Sure, logged off users have heaps of value, but there is a lot of useful potentially social data being lost to the world when someone consumes content offline. The choice to read something is a pretty valuable signal that can be used to power all sorts of useful things for that user and others. [Gratuitous plug alert] We play with this at by asking our users to share everything they read as a stream visible to others. It brings the voice of the 89% of users who don’t want to actively participate in conversations into the mix – they contribute data by letting others see what they chose to read. They can be useful without changing their behavior. Sharing is socially difficult – you have to decide if something is interesting enough for a large number of people, how it will make you look. Passive sharing is actually far less worrisome for most people.

  4. LIAD

    Loggout out users don’t contribute or add value to the ecosystem.They benefit from the system but don’t give anything back.I know the 90/10/1 pyramid holds true throughout social media, but would have thought that twitter with its effortless simplicity would be an outlier. If they can’t get the 90% to create, there’s no hope for anyone else being able to.Twitter may feel that 40% of active users not tweeting is ‘super-healthy’ but what happens if/when it creeps up to 50% then 60%?What happened to giving everyone a voice?

    1. fredwilson

      that’s the wrong way to look at it. if you increase the volume at the top of the funnel, you increase what comes through the bottom. twitter is at 15% (60/400). when that 400 gets to 1bn, you’ll have 150mm people creating content on twitter, that is public content that the entire world can see. think about that.

      1. LIAD

        understood, but the %age of content creators is in decline, at some point we can’t pour anymore into the top of the funnel and then the decay accelerates.If it was me, I’d much rather see content creators increasing than decreasing.

        1. fredwilson

          i don’t believe the % is in rapid decline and the total number is growing fast

          1. LIAD

            The ecosystem as a whole is obviously growing like a weed. But content creation is going the other way. Dick said so himself yesterday “40% of our active users now don’t tweet, *way up* from beginning of year.”

          2. JamesHRH

            Fred’s right – it is not important. 150M creators with active audiences is a ridiculously healthy situation.You could argue that there are not 150 M people on the planet worth listening to!

          3. Rich Ullman

            Sure… but that means that 60% of their active users DO tweet.And in comparison with the 90/9/1% pyramid, that’s pretty impressive.Twitter is the poster child for media fragmentation, because its audience AND content in fragments.  My gut says the engagement between and among the “smaller” fragments (vs. the celebrities) is much higher… and therefore stronger. another big plus for them if they wish to monetize via advertising.

      2. Josh Stevens

        if there is gravity and zero friction in the funnel (not to mention QUALIFIED people at the top of the funnel, fred is 100% right.  ;-)as the top of the funnel grows –  twitter (and every funnel) gets less qualified people and the ratio degrades of top-to-bottom engagement and conversion.  not a bad thing, just more human, than otherwise, the most engaged most active, self-directed users are in early – and the rest, are, well, parvenues and less “into” the product.  it goes more “passive lite/logged out” than “active logged in” …which is still ok – its just an evolution to a broadcast model for twitter (with better tracking and reporting than CBS). 

    2. Dave Pinsen

      If some logged out users click on ads and buy the advertisers’ products or services, then they are supporting the ecosystem financially. 



        1. JamesHRH

          I seriously cannot get enough wolf analogies.Maybe because I spent my youthful summers here –

        2. Guest

          me thinks another t-shirt slogan 🙂

    3. awaldstein

      I look at it from the other side Liad.Everyone has a voice. Human nature is simply not configured to have all of the people be leaders/broadcasters/talkers. Most are followers and listeners. True in general. True on your Facebook wall. True in Twitter as well it seems.But the thing that all those listeners do is support the brand building process and of course, they consume and buy.These numbers look healthy to me. The funnel has just been reconfigured.

      1. markslater

        i agree arnold.

      2. fredwilson

        engaging the listeners is key. facebook’s like button does this well. the tweet this button takes readers on huffpo and makes them tweeters. that kind of thing is important to move the silent majority into conversations

        1. LIAD

          there we have it!The best case goal is that everyone creates, everyone has a voice. That used to be twitter’s war cry and mantra.Dick’s quotes seem like he has disavowed that goal. “We’re excited 40% actives don’t tweet”. – Your comment shows *you* haven’t. You still think its important to make consumers into creators.

          1. fredwilson

            he hasn’t either. and you can be sure jack hasn’t either.dick is just trying to explain to people that an increasing number of readers isn’t bad either

          2. ShanaC

            Look, most people read before they write.  Think first grade.  You practice reading and you practice writing simple sentences for your handwritings sake.  The books you are reading help you write better with time…same goes for the internet

          3. JamesHRH

            Thousands of years of history would indicate that this is an idealistic dead end. Human nature says this goal is puffery.Twitter worthy of a more honest purpose.

        2. leigh

          Actually would be great if Twitter had a like button vs. favorite.  Favorite I want to use for research purposes but often use it as a like button to repsond to pple without having to @ talk to them.  

        3. awaldstein

          True of course.That’s Facebook’s magic. They cracked the code on letting people engage without being content creators. Also their challenge with depth of engagement.I think that as these communities or groups verticalize engagement % will go up of course. Ask a question about wine to 500 FB friends and ask the same question to your wine community. I’m focusing on the power of niche as the answer for engagement and commerce more than the power of the broad network.

        4. William Mougayar

          Twitter needs to distribute their social widgets aggressively like FB did, and that will promote more engagements from within blogs, websites, etc…E.g. Twitter’s integration with Disqus is a good example, but was done with hard API stuff. We need plug and play buttons, downloadable snippets. Why can’t I pop a window on any web page and branch off into a Twitter conversation. Google+ is adding an annotation feature to their G+ button. 

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. markslater

            +2 we are working on something like this william

          3. Rich Ullman

            Agree.  Never underestimate laziness… oops, I mean simplicity.

          4. JamesHRH

            Next round on me. +1.

      3. LIAD

        For sure. Big picture Twitter is going gangbusters and will be the defining tech company of the decade – and so it should, and good on it.But, it just seems that initially it was all about creation, democratization, giving everyone a voice.A big hairy, audacious goal. Biz called it a ‘triumph of humanity’ – that really resonated with me.Now it appears they’ve had to publicly fall back to a lesser vision. “We’re excited 40% of active users don’t tweet”

        1. awaldstein

          Twitter, maybe more than any other platform is still discovering itself. They caught the wave early, it just wasn’t clear how to ride it.

          1. LIAD

            boy, would I have liked to have ridden that wave with them

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. LIAD

            there are less singers as a percentage than the beginning of the year. – if you like the music, you can’t but help to join in yourself.

          2. JamesHRH

            Many statistical reasons here. Is audience growing at faster rate than pubishers ( my guess )?Twitter going mainstream means it settles onto the breakout of society in general. Many people don’t want to sing. Many people want to but have no talent. Many people want to, have talent but don’t know how to gain a following.Easy to listen. Hard to find and audience.

        3. Josh Stevens

          LIAD – seems like your suggesting Twitter can’t have two (or more) usage models or business models.  Some are in “logged-out” or “broadcast model receive” mode.  Great.  That’s a model and is multi-blllion on TV Cable and Radio.  Then there’s the “publishers” and the “advertisers”.  What’s wrong with two or three sides to a good business model?   100 million homes have cable tv.  Only 200 thousand watch CNN at once.  Feels like twitter. Dont need to have everyone engaged symmetrically to have a model. 

          1. LIAD

            i hear you.however if the number of creators continues to decline, you’ll have a lot of people watching a blank tv

      4. William Mougayar

        It’s a read-write web combined with a consume/produce model. That’s powerful. That’s Twitter’s edge over Google, and at a scale that is massive.



      1. ShanaC

        Grimlock, why do you say 90% of people can’t create.  We’re evolutionarily advanced toolmakers that create.  There are other issues going into writing.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. JamesHRH

        Next fleshy appetizer on me. +1.

    5. falicon

      Beyond the ad view/click thing Dave mentions, there are also a few more ways logged out users help add value:1. Probably most important…any consumer, logged in or logged out, that clicks on a link shared through twitter is generating a referral from Twitter…Fred has posted about this in the past, and I think it’s an even bigger point than many realize…the reason Google gets so much money (and players) with Google adsense is because of all the referral traffic that Google itself first generated (and the ads ultimately just added to that in a monetizable way). The true economy of the web is links, and Twitter is slowly but surely becoming *the* marketplace for link exchange (now that’s a marketplace I know USV is happy to be involved in!).2. To a lesser degree word-of-mouth still plays a role in the world…the more people have real-world conversations with “I saw xyz on Twitter”, the more Twitter is valued in the minds of people…and you don’t have to be logged in to have “seen xyz on Twitter”.3. Speaking more to the funnel that Fred mentions…the more logged out ‘readers’ you have, the more chances you have for them to eventually become ‘logged in readers’…and the more logged in readers you have the more chances you have for them to become ‘content generators’.  I don’t know about others, but I find it near impossible to read a couple of pages of Twitter streams without having the urge to respond to or retweet at least a few of them…Anyway – just my random thoughts on the topic…

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Logged out users do buy stuff online. Whenever I correspond with a new Portfolio Armor user (whether a subscriber to the web version or someone who downloaded the iOS app), I ask them where they heard about it. Usually they heard about it from an online article or guest blog post I wrote, and in most cases I’m pretty sure they were lurkers — i.e., I don’t recognize them as commenters on my posts, and they don’t refer to any exchanges between us in the comments.

    6. Josh Stevens

      This is silly. Logged out users create a top-of-funnel stream for logged-in users. Where do you think logged-in users come from?  Mostly from the logged-out pool. 

    7. ShanaC

      They give back data and metadata

      1. LIAD

        i can’t eat meta-data

        1. ShanaC

          Your startup could.

  5. William Mougayar

    Twitter has the makings of a Google. Only they don’t know it yet.

    1. fredwilson

      certainly the team thinks that way

      1. markslater

        at some point search gets off a machine and goes live. Thats what we think. At some point what ever i am looking for is matched live with someone who can provide respond. machines cant account for the conversation that ensues. 

        1. William Mougayar

          If / when Twitter unleashes a credible/innovative search….fill in the blank.

          1. markslater

            its got to be around something more than information – the live search concept will evolve around action.i need something – help me, or i am looking for something – help me.if there is an economic incentive for a merchant to respond for instance – they will. If its simply people looking for information – then its back to the machine.

          2. mobileHolly

            There is an economic incentive to keep customers or try to capitalize on someone’s dissatisfaction. I tweeted once about being sick of a provider after I was repeatedly refused help by phone. The next 8 tweets were people recommending a provider they liked better, the 9th was from the customer service department of my own provider who finally got me the help I needed. Big brands are monitoring Twitter, and if they’re not they’re clueless.

          3. markslater

            yes they are listening. The customer now has a voice. its not too far from the VRM movement thats going on at harvard.It can fundamentally change marketing – its very powerful stuff.

      2. William Mougayar

        We’re counting on it…

  6. Guest

    Fred I have to disagree a bit. I’ve been actively diving back into Twitter the last two months contributing and trying to engage and I’ve gained little to nothing. People don’t respond to my @messages or Tweets or engage at all with me. Because let’s face it on Twitter I’m a nobody. And that’s the trend with Twitter that I see the most. It’s shifting to a Celebrity, Athelete and sadly popularity contest. Even Twitter’s own blog post the other day sadly touted only famous people.I can understand why as a big portion of their audience are lurkers. I get it. Though to say contributing increase values, at least in my case, is wrong. It leads to frustration and feels like shouting at a very loud and crowded cocktail party where no one gives a shit what you have to say.

    1. fredwilson

      you are not a nobodywhy don’t you talk to me on twitter?

      1. kirklove

        Fred, this is Kirk, I don’t know why Disqus put this as Guest, it was in response to a thread elsewhere in this thread and I can’t delete it.Anyway, I have sent you several messages on Twitter. You’ve never responded there. Just being honest.

        1. fredwilson

          well you never offered me dale earnhardt jr jr tickets on twitter 🙂

          1. kirklove

            Ha. ToucheThough I think your joke underscores my point about Twitter. You’ve always responded to my emails and engage with my Tumblr regularly. And we’ve hung out in person. Though nada on Twitter. Perhaps it’s the platform? Not sure that’s what I meant by a nobody on Twitter…It’s not just you. I have regular interactions with folks who are quite prominent #humblebrag via email, phone, in person, etc. Though they never respond or interact with Twitter. Not sure why. Different silos of interaction I suppose.

          2. fredwilson

            look at the @replies i do make!/fred…and you’ll see its the message that gets the reply

          3. awaldstein

            Most annoying is accounts that don’t accept messages. If I can’t engage, I’m just not interested. Not a born follower here.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          If you’re looking to engage with high-profile, famous-in-their-industry folks such as Fred, in my experience, Twitter gives you a better shot than, say, e-mail, but Disqus gives you a better shot than Twitter. Depends on the person though.

          1. fredwilson

            and the tweet matterscheck!/fred… and look at the @replies i choose to makei get @mentions to my handle about 100x a day and reply to one or twothe message matters

          2. Dave Pinsen

            One thing that’s cool about Twitter is the range of those messages. I tweeted a couple of examples last week, related to Cory Booker (one tweet by a fan posting pictures of Booker on a visit to Silicon Valley, and one by a woman in Newark tweeting that she’d just gotten mugged.).

          3. falicon

            So this is awesome and really interesting to me…I think human nature is to first filter on person, but it sounds like at a certain volume (regardless of medium) it tends to flip from filtering on the person to filtering on the message ( IMHO in an ideal world, we would all default to filtering on the message first ).I suspect this extends to email and other mediums as well…once you get a certain volume of stuff, it becomes harder and harder to filter strictly on the ‘who’ and priorities must be set on the ‘what’.BTW – this is the *real* thing that is attempting to help with (and today’s overall post also helps reveal why we are focused on the people who are getting things shared with them [content consumers] rather than those directly generating content…there’s more of them, and the problem is bigger for them).

        3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. kirklove


          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        4. mobileHolly

          I don’t know Fred and don’t speak for him, but I will say something about the general issue. Having been on Twitter for four-ish years, when I started, I could see what people wrote. Then I hit 1,000 followers/following. The Twitter experience completely changed and I rarely see anyone’s tweets unless I am on in real time at the same time as they are. Then 5k followers/following and it’s not a firehose anymore, it’s a whitewater river.  As for DM’s, you can pretty much forget it after awhile because all the people that I follow or follow back use auto-DM’s thanking me for following them and oh check out my blog/facebook/salespage and the DM stream gets about as cluttered as the regular Twitterstream.If you want to get someone’s attention even for a DM, try sending them a public message to tell them you are DM’ing them so they will look for it.

          1. kirklove

            I think this highlights my issue. Twitter = a ton of noise and unless you are popular you can’t cut through any more.I’d wager that if I sent you a message it would get “lost” in the fray. If Fred did, however, you’d perk up. Like I said, I get it. Fred’s got infinitely more clout than I. That’s Twitter. Clout matters now.

          2. JamesHRH

            Almost like it’s a one way, one to many, direct, real time publishing platform?:PWhat you need to do is set up a second account that is personal.I have a local media star friend that has two Facebook accounts. His off-air account and his on-air account. He’s friends w both groups but shares differently ( spare us the Path, + posts everyone! ).Your need to search could be set up as a GRIM style Pro version feature. Lurker, reader, audience type users don’t need to search; whitewater types do. Maybe. If they pay for it…..

        5. ShanaC

          if you talk to me, I will respond to you .  I feel bad reading this.

          1. kirklove

            Haha Shana don’t feel bad. I talk to lots of people across a ton of channels. I was just making a point that Twitter has lost its relevance for me. It’s simply too much noise, where popularity matters not message in most cases.

          2. ShanaC

            True,  I overfollow people because I’m interested in too many things. I wish I could converse with more of the people (and I should get organized) because I think I would be happier/more informed.

          3. matthughes

            Concealing ‘popularity status’ (total number of followers and following) would be an interesting case study…Would that steer Twitter towards the ‘message’ and away from ‘popularity’?

      2. JamesHRH

        This is a pet peeve – you should not treat twitter like the hallway of a high school (where you broadcast private conversations in order to establish status).i think a lot of people broadcast their lives on twitter with this in mind. If they don’t they accidentally come across as social players.

    2. leigh

      Actually I’ve noticed a trend to this as well – and while i’m equally a nobody i have a pretty engaged group on Twitter, many of whom are my ‘close weak tie’ network.  Things evolve.  Try not to be too discouraged.  I think you can try two things:1.  Write a tweet asking people “advil or tylenol” i had more @ tweets for that then for anything i’ve ever posted2.  Becomes twitter friends with @sixstringcpa:twitter  – he’s always in for a good conversation 🙂

      1. William Mougayar

        Leigh – what you say makes sense ONLY if Twitter improves their search so people can find your needles of wisdom in the proverbial hay stack.

        1. leigh

          Did you mean that reply for the likes/favorites vs. this comment?

          1. William Mougayar

            No, I meant being able to find content by just searching. So if you’re a nobody with 12 followers and you say something brilliant that’s related to something I’m searching for, I need to be lucky today to see that in the Twitter search results. 

          2. leigh

            ah yes that is true  – my advil/tylenol example was actually replied to by my actual twitter network not by strangers.  If i want my content to be found by strangers, i tend to put hashtags in them., your service and other curation tools grab ’em 🙂

      2. Guest

        Thanks for that comment Leigh. I try really hard to talk to all kinds of folks. I do not often get replies. It took me a long time to get anyone to reply to me it seems. So, I will be quite honest and I have to admit I see similar things as to what Guest (aka Kirklove ) and you mention above. I am reexamining Twitter as of late. It is a better broadcast tool then it is a conversational tool in my personal opinion. And the character limitation really bothers me. Humanity is a bit stuck between two worlds at the moment, I think – the digital and the physical world. Rules are being rewritten – and we (collectively) will not agree on which ones should be changed or which ones can be changed. I have noticed something though, the AVC community (a digital world for me primarily) is probably the closest thing I am experiencing to deep, meaningful relationships outside of my “real” world and in-person interactions and relationships (I include Facebook here because I have purposefully built my Facebook network with very specific individuals that have had a physical presence in my life). It is no surprise that these AVC folks are the same folks with whom I interact most with on Twitter. A stranger is a stranger until (s)he is not any longer. The moment of that change can happen anywhere but some “places” allow that moment to occur quicker I think. At least that is the case for me. I need to run but hope to be back in this conversation because it is an important one as we all shift how and where we interact.{UPDATED}

        1. leigh

          i was thinking of that the other day when i tweeted you and some other avc crew about that start up.  it’s one of the rare moments when i miss friendfeed.  way easier to have a conversation with a group of people around a tweet.  

  7. Toby Nicholas

    I couldn’t agree more.If the 1/10/100 metric is stable across services and demographics (and it appears to be), then it’s probably a reflection of human nature more than a generational divide or tech-saviness. In which case, there’s no point fighting it, only embracing it.And monetizing it. And if any particular service depends on, or benefits from, scale – which it almost certainly does – logic suggests that you should focus on the revenue potential amongst these logged out users first, and harder, than the people contributing.

    1. JLM

      You have to “value” the individual customers individually not just count noses.

      1. ShanaC

        What is the smartest way of doing that?  My dad has fired customers in the past.

  8. JimHirshfield

    It’s a legacy mentality from early days, right? Remember hotmail and such being judged in this way. Different times. Different models.

  9. William Mougayar

    First things first. Has anyone tried Twitter Search lately? It sucks. You can hardly find anything more than 3 days old because Twitter takes it away, and you can’t construct a proper search query that works.Twitter needs to figure out Search (or a new form of Search…I’m not saying they should copy Google Search), NOW. Serendipitous discovery is good, but not enough. Business people can’t bet their jobs on serendipitously discovering information about their competitors or clients. I realize there might be tools on top of Twitter that do that (and we’re doing it  @eqentia), but there’s a basic level of search that’s still missing from Twitter.Let’s hope they do this echoing Dick’s quote from Danny Sullivan’s post: “We want to surface all this content, which means surfacing the worldwide content on Twitter and then more surfacing what happens on your world on Twitter.”

    1. LIAD

      it is staggering how search has been so broken for so long.It got a design facelift recently but functionality somehow went backwards.

      1. William Mougayar

        I agree 100%.

      2. Mark Essel

        Volume has grown substantially, and whatever quality signals were originally used have eroded due to noise/spam. I agree that search quality is an important feature of twitter’s information pipeline. Maybe one worth paying for?

        1. LIAD

          a shitty working search is better than no search

          1. Mark Essel

            True, and based on the quality it’s also a signal of the perceived importance of search on the Twitter roadmap.

          2. LIAD

            great to maybe the Goog contract not being renewed.Losing real-time search is a real pain

          3. JamesHRH

            Guys – I suggest Trout & Ries ‘Positioning’.Shitty search undermines the ‘ following ‘ Value proposition – you are not following anymore,you are searching ( that’s Google’s brand – why not just let them do it ). You are moving users away from the core proposition. It is a mistake.And it’s shitty, which I would never knowingly associate with a brand whose core proposition is that it is helpful.

          4. LIAD

            core prop is also real-time info.if you can’t get at it, there’s no point them having it

          5. LIAD

            i like the way you look at things

          6. raycote

            I see your point but in the back of my head I keep hearing:“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS INFORMATION OVERLOAD; JUST FILTER FAILURE.” — Clay ShirkyFollow – Search – RatingsThe more tools you make available for me to custom shape the filler the better the value equation is for me.

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Mark Essel

            Hahaha. Not having memory is a feature.Well, having a short memory at least.

          2. Carl J. Mistlebauer

            If you had search, then maybe Twitter would not be what it is today.  One thing about “melting data” is then you get people to stay more tuned in out of the fear of missing something.The greatest sales pitch is the one that claims, “here today, gone tomorrow!” 

    2. gregorylent

      The uselessness of twitter search is one of the bad things about the service.

  10. DonRyan

    I think that’s the beauty of Twitter lists. I cover entire segments (sports, business, entertainment) via lists. No interaction just reading and it’s fascinating. Also, Twitter search is an incredibly powerful tool, at times rivaling Google itself. They have a huge potential company on their hands. 

    1. Mark Essel

      I enjoy lists as well, but the search always felt weak compared to Friendfeed’s search.

  11. Mark Essel

    Speaking of Twitter, congratulations to you and all the USV team on the liquidity event.

    1. fredwilson

      nothing to congratulate me on that i know ofwhat are you referring to?

      1. Mark Essel

        Did TC get the scoop wrong?”Twitter employees can currently only sell 20% of their shares before a liquidity event, and from what I am hearing many are not choosing to sell the full amount they are allowed to sell in this deal. Primack is reporting that existing investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures took this opportunity to sell existing shares but that later stage investors Benchmark Capital and Insight Venture Partners have thus far held on to theirs.”I linked to the article in my comment above.

  12. Robert Thuston

    I like that, “don’t treat them like second class”… build them services.  In the end, I think you need to find ways to get them “engaged”.I think “engagement” is the hook, and it’s fine if they don’t do anything, but eventually if they don’t do anything, those individuals are going to have a high turnover rate.  I think it’s human nature; an “observational” behavior is less addictive than and “engagement” behavior.

  13. Harry DeMott

    Logged out users are like people who watch TV. They are out there consuming content – it’s just that you don’t know who they are. Logged in users are like Nielsen families – they are watching as well – and you do know who they are. the 60M who tweet are producers who both watch and produce.It is a healthy ecosystem with a lot of upside to it. The more you move people from passive to engaged, the more valuable they become to the ecosystem and the more valuable the ecosystem itself becomes as a whole.If you are logged in an tweeting or just reading there’s a tremendous amount of context around your actions – which is ultimately valuable.How that value is realized is an open question – but there’s certainly value there.

    1. JamesHRH

      Excellent analogy. In the print world, they have a circulation level bump for ‘passed along’ – readers of newspapers that are not subscribers (well, they did ;-)The free coffee shop one sheets live on pass along circulation stats.Logged out = passed along

      1. JLM

        Something odd about Disqus today. Sometimes your comment is present and then it is gone. Weird.

        1. JamesHRH


    2. JLM

      Perfect analogy.

    3. JLM

      Using the tv analogy, in the long run the lurkers will be the real measure of value. The advertisers on MSNBC and Fox really don’t care about the message, they care about the size of the audience.

      1. markslater

        that’s assuming that people will continue to be ok with being interupted by mindless advertizing drivel. the movement over at the berkman center at harvard law sees this potential changing, The user taking back their time and their data and beginning to control how they wish to interact with a merchant.

        1. JamesHRH

          That just sounds painful. Anyone with enough time to do that Is not busy enough…….And ads are valuable, when they hit you. I bought our last vehicle because an ad made me aware of an offer I was interested in ( radio ad on local sports talk station ).

          1. markslater

            painful? i’ll tell you whats painful – stupid green car insurance hawking lizards.why the hell should i ever be interrupted? the answer goes back several decades – “here we have a medium where we can interupt someone – a one way medium – radio and tv – they dont have a choice but to listen”well that has changed – i do have a choice. If i want to buy a car – i’ll put my self in the market and see what people have to say. But i wont by one on impulse and i am done with the green lizard. i’m not saying its one or the other – you can choose to be interupted but there is an off switch – i know i’ll use it.

          2. JamesHRH

            Electronic media, decades ago, were considered a public trust. Not so much now.You got interrupted by ads because decades ago the public policy mandate was that electronic media be free.Eventually, people delivered interruption free media. The ad interruption switch they used was cash ( see cable, HBO or print, The Economist ).If you think green insurance guys work you over now, wait until you put your hand up and tell people you would like to buy something………

          3. markslater

            give me about 2 weeks i will show you what i mean.

          4. Dave Pinsen

            The green lizard pays for the content you do want to see. If you don’t want to be interrupted, then there will have to be other ways to pay for that content (product placements built into the shows, you paying directly for them, etc.). Quality content costs money.

          5. andyidsinga

            forget the gecko – the two dumbases under the rocks are awesome 😉

        2. Carl J. Mistlebauer

          Mark,As a merchant that has always been the fundamental question that I always believed needed to be asked:  At what point does advertising annoy and causes the consumer to react?  That is why I always focused on creating an online vehicle that would entice consumers to visit our merchant site for reasons other than to buy.  That is why I think games and communities where consumers interact with each other more than they interact with the brand/product is critical.  Using television as an example, since the advent of the remote control and 100’s of stations, advertising is just a break that people use to surf other channels.The internet is not so much about traditional advertising as it is more about shared voyeurism.    

        3. raycote

          I not interested in having products or services pushed at me .I’d rather pull product info or product discount sales off a search engine that was specifically dedicated to commercial interaction between sellers and buyers.When it comes to content consumption I want to get it direct form the content producer and pay a competitive price directly.I’ve always wondered when I watch a popular TV show how much the content producer actually get off of the cable/advertiser per viewer.I have really no idea but when Apple charge me and my wife $1 per show, thats $0.50 each, thats $0.35 after Apple takes its cut, surely the content provider is not getting that much per viewer from the present middle men ? ? ?

          1. markslater

            “I’d rather pull product info or product discount sales off a search engine that was specifically dedicated to commercial interaction between sellers and buyers”in the words of men at work “ya speka my language”….

      2. Cam MacRae

        That doesn’t hold as fast as it once did. Advertisers cared about the size of the audience because reach was the only measurement available to them, but modern day media planners/buyers/agencies make use of much finer grained analytics. And because they’re better informed, advertisers care more and more about the message.

      3. raycote

        I don’t understand why advertisers would care about my weight unless they are advertising snack foods?

    4. ShanaC

      of course, but the passiveness makes it more difficult to buy a spot…

    5. Guest

      Making time for one more quick comment before I have to bolt. Nice point Harry. If I just use twitter to consume content in order to ingest/digest information to make me more informed voter/smarter manager/etc. that still has tremendous value I think. good post



    1. JamesHRH

      GRIM, baby – most of the tweets on Twitter don’t matter, they’re dreck. Jack matters.

      1. Mark Essel

        If most of the tweets don’t matter, what does that say about the value of the platform and ecosystem. I hope at least the person tweeting cares about their messages.

        1. Brad Noble

          That the rest of Twitter is choked with things you don’t care about has no bearing on the value of the platform. B/c the value of the platform is specific to the value any one user sees in it.TV is no different. Of the many shows that you have access to, how many do you watch? How ’bout the Web? There’s an almost infinite number of web pages that you have never seen and are in fact *in-the-way*, but that has nothing to do with the value of the Internet, or the value of *this page*.If you’re careful about who you follow, the value of Twitter is as obvious as the value of the content of this post. It’s how I found my way here, after all.

        2. ShanaC

          well a tweet by itself is rarely important.  It does give a pulse of that moment in that place, and when things are disturbed, you see magic.Then again, I also imagine twitter to be like water in my mental model….

        3. JamesHRH

          Context clarity – I am half kidding. If GRIM is hungry, I want him to eat Russell Brand not Jack Dorsey.Some of the most popular people in society have little to say of real value – it’s social grist and a reflection of the superficial nature of pop culture. Doesn’t mean Twitter is unimportant ( or Fb – there’s a dreck mill service – for that matter ).Some people tweet useful stuff ( Bill Gurley is terrific ) because they do the Plato thing right ( see baba12 post ).

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    2. raycote

      I’m willing to pay!Now all I need is someone to tell me what matters 😉

  15. JamesHRH

    I have yet to understand the need for search.Twitter is a realtime connection to anyone on the planet who is cultivating a following. That’s a lot of good stuff to bring to the table.In the converged internet world, it means that you can see the headline, consume the content or build your own audience (if you want to put in the work or are already famous).The brand manager in me would ask: Why is search so needed?

    1. mobileHolly

      There was a blackout in San Diego last night. Instead of calling the utility company to report it, I researched and found out it stretched down through Baja, California, Mexico, and parts of Arizona and New Mexico. How do I know how far the blackout reached? Twitter search.As a brand manager, do you want to know what people are saying just one on one, or would you like to be able to have a list of responses that you can aggregate to determine how a large, vocal group of people feels about something? If the latter, you’ll see how important search is.

      1. JamesHRH

        Your first action phrase started w ‘instead’.Obviously, your utility company should tweet, especially in emergencies.Twitter is not about aggregating a large number of vocal people. It’s about enabling a large number of vocal people to access a following directly.Search is an index, not an aggregating function. This issue with Google today is that most of the results from a query brings you aggregator links…….you can’t find actual websites of actual businesses that you know exist, because there are 3 pages of aggregator results.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Google is still a library card catalog subject index but ordered by popularity from page rank.  That it worked so well is good and amazing, but what is really needed is ‘meaning’, and both keywords and page rank are short on meaning,  Next, meaning is often ‘personal’, and Google is short on ‘personalization’. Yes, Schmidt’s lecture in England talked a lot about the need for more in ‘personalization’.

          1. JamesHRH

            The interesting thing about some ideas is that they are impossible.A national newspaper (i.e., USA today). Sounds great. Never made money.Personalization. Sounds great. Will never happen.I don’t have time to teach a computer about me. And AI is not good enough to anticipate my changes (interests, tastes, needs, situation). Ask a senior executive how painful it is to change EAs. That will give you a sense of how impossible an AI personalization or localization service will be.Google is a library card that is being gamed by the books. They need to fix the books gaming abilities. They need to give up on the personalization or fund huge AI research program.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            “I don’t have time to teach a computer about me. And AI is not good enough to anticipate my changes (interests, tastes, needs, situation).”On AI: At Yorktown Heights, I was one of a team of three researchers who did some of the best work in AI. We developed an AI language that got shipped as a Program Product, and at one point we gave a paper at the AAAI IAAI conference at Stanford on the 25 best AI applications in the world that year. Thus, I fully agree with what you said about AI! Right: AI won’t do very well with personalization!News for IT, this just in! AI is not nearly the most powerful bases on which to program a computer, not anywhere close to the best. Sorry AI people, DARPA, etc! :-)!Yes, as you suggest, the main challenge is not the user interface, user experience, the “search for a business model”, or “product-market fit” but just how the heck to do that when at first glance it looks “impossible”! :-)!But, for more power we can exploit solid, old rationalism, that is, start with some of what we know, use that as hypotheses in some theorems, prove the theorems, and use the conclusions of the theorems for some more that we know. Create new knowledge! How ’bout that! Sometimes it’s called ‘research’; yes, we have some grad schools for that! To paraphrase, “I’m shocked to find math going on in information technology entrepreneurship. Your winnings, Sir!”. Strange, new world! I’m not saying that the theorems are all elementary!Compared with this use of rationalism, AI is next to just a shot in the dark because so far the new techniques are just intuitive and heuristic, and it’s tough to get anything very powerful from just intuitive heuristics and tougher to know what has been obtained. This second difficulty is why the main criterion of AI is just seeing if an instance appears to work in practice.Proved theorems, however, e.g., the Neyman-Pearson best possible result used in advanced radar, said how to separate targets from the rest. The US DoD has been following this ‘paradigm’ with great success for 70 years. E.g., with some theorems for quantum mechanics, that and more in mathematical physics, and some cross section measurements, there wasn’t much doubt about the first A-bomb or the Teller-Ulam configuration, a lot in passive sonar, GPS, and much more.So, that’s some of how to answer questions about how the heck to do that!Examples compared with AI? Thought you’d never ask! One of the problems we were using AI for was monitoring the real time ‘health and wellness’ of server farms and networks. So, we wrote AI ‘rules’ of the form:”When I see A, B, and three more cases of C without a case of D, then it looks bad. Sound an alarm.”Sounded not very good to me. Instead, at each, say, tenth of a second when ask if a system is healthy or not, there are two ways to be wrong, either a false alarm or a missed detection. Really, necessarily we are doing essentially just a classic statistical hypothesis test. So, as has been known back to, say, Pearson 100 years ago, for whatever false alarm rate we are willing to tolerate, we want all the detection rate we can get. With enough data, Neyman-Pearson says just how to do that.Well, we had ‘big data’ but still not enough for Neyman-Pearson. And although there has been 100 years of work on hypothesis testing, (1) our data was multi-dimensional and (2) we had no hope of finding its probability distribution even for a healthy system and certainly not for a sick one.So, I did some math, proved some theorems, wrote some prototype software, checked out the techniques with both some real data from a ‘cluster’ and also with some simulated data, and wrote and published a paper. Totally blows away AI for the ‘zero day’ part of monitoring health and wellness.How to do that? The first-cut intuitive idea is use some ‘aged’ historical data to ‘define’ a ‘healthy’ system and, in real time, if too far from anything seen before, then that is a symptom of something ‘not healthy’ and, thus, ‘sick’. For the math, and, really, for the original part, with some meager assumptions and using a little group theory and measure theory much as in parts of ergodic theory, can calculate and set the false alarm rate exactly. Sounds “impossible” but it’s not!In effect, it’s multi-dimensional, distribution-free statistical hypothesis testing, apparently the first such. An old result of Ulam called ‘tightness’ can show that the test is not ‘trivial’. Then with some more meager assumptions, can get a useful, asymptotic ‘best possible’ result.Could it be used in some other situations of separating ‘healthy’ from ‘sick’? Sure.So, it’s possible to use rationalism to beat AI. And also in ‘personalization’ in search!To be quite effective, usually more effective than real intelligence, the personalization does not have to be as powerful as the goals of ‘real AI’, the ‘singularity’, or teaching a new executive assistant. :-)!In particular, your claim of “impossible” is from asking too much, much more than necessary, and is like saying that because we can’t go faster than the speed of light we can’t travel in space. Well, we’ve been to the moon and back, and if we worked at it we could get to Mars and back. Right: Travel out of the solar system would be a bit much without, say, some earth centuries of hibernation. So far travel among the galaxies is impossible, but travel in space is not.For your point about time to teach the computer, well for my work you don’t have to teach the computer very much, and the teaching is quite fast, intuitive, and easy to do — some users will think of the ‘user experience’ as fun. The current, best alternatives usually give at best just poor results or take much, much more time.I’ve got the crucial, core software with the key techniques in good shape. As I confirmed in my software testing, tor a ‘batch’ user the software will do ‘searches’ now! So, for at least this much progress, the work is not “impossible”! And I have enough math to give me confidence that the techniques should work quite well.I have a few more, simple Web pages to write and have to stick in some quite simple TCP/IP code for a case of asynchronous communications from the Web page code to the core search software. Then the whole system will do searches for Web users. Then I’ll put in some initial ‘base data’, and we will have a beta!For a little more, I’ll implement a standard, simple login and let logged in users save the ‘teaching’ (‘curation’) and revise it later, send a search to a friend (‘virality’) where they can revise the teaching, and have a search done automatically, periodically (subscription) with e-mail notification.Then more ‘base’ data, and it will go live. With a dozen searches a second from a server at my left knee, it will be a nice ‘life style’ business. Hope they are still selling the supercharged Corvette! For more, sure, it’s trying to be better for a major fraction of Internet content (based on text or not) and search so might grow.But, right, so far it’s not very ‘social’! Also, it’s not AI!

          3. Mark Essel

            I couldn’t reply below, but I believe that’s how Yegg started DuckDuckGo.

          4. sigmaalgebra

            I don’t know all the history of DuckDuckGo, but the times I looked at it in the last few months it had no significant contact with my work.My user interface should be easy enough and intuitive to use, but everything about the search engine is very different from anything else I’ve seen.  From my experience publishing original applied math with advanced prerequisites in the computer science literature, I have to guess that no one else in computer science or information technology entrepreneurship would think of doing what I’m doing.My first ‘beta’, really should be called an ‘alpha’, will be like a car driving around in a back yard, maybe interesting and promising but not very useful!  I will be seeking feedback.  Maybe I’ll invite the community to connect.  If the site gets much traffic or I get much feedback, then I will have to shut down the site and ‘regroup’.In my post…I did want to drive a stake through the heart of the assumption that AI is an especially powerful way to program a computer now.  Sorry ’bout the several hundred thousand people around the world who want to follow a Stanford AI course this fall.  Again, the problem with AI is that so far what they have that is new is essentially just intuitive and heuristic, and that is just not very powerful ‘methodology’.In strong contrast, in advanced math, there are results that are true, astounding for being true, astoundingly general, so general they can look like just abstract nonsense, essentially impossible for someone away from the math to guess, even for someone close to the math next to impossible to believe without proof, and, occasionally, useful!  The main practical problems are, the prerequisites are a solid undergraduate major in pure math and then some focused material from graduate math, and nearly no one in information technology entrepreneurship has these prerequisites.  Also the work is a bit severe, precise, and demanding!  So the field is neglected.  So, there can be an opportunity!Today I told myself I will write code instead of posting a “novel” at!  So, back to it! 

      2. ShanaC

        Latter, honestly if I were much more mathematical, I honestly would also be mapping relationships and relationships to different brands/anything useful to see if I could pull some correlative evidence about what to do.A tweet by itself is rarely important.  even if it is from an important person.  It is how it reverberates that is.  (honestly, that would be cool to model)

  16. Ela Madej

    Great insights (again!).  A minor thing: 1%, 9%, 90%.

  17. Ivan Vecchiato

    Totally agree.My hometown government puts announcements and informations on the city’s Facebook official page. The same info cannot be found on the city website. If you are not logged you don’t get the info. This is not a service given to people, this is a limitation and, seen from a network perspective, it is a wrong interpretation of the service. All the ideas I thought about had a logged out useful part.

  18. Phil Michaelson and are examples of websites where the members are just a small percentage of the overall userbase, both groups are served in very different ways.

    1. JamesHRH

      As Chris notes above, publishing platforms. Good examples.

  19. Dave W Baldwin

    Most commenters need to give Fred a little bit of a break.  He is looking long.The middle ground between most replies and @FakeGrimlock:disqus is this- many who are just reading tweets are probably too busy to create tweets.  They can get a feel on what the buzz is for today.Those that send tweets, most often are retweeting or just copy/pasting link which then gets RTd. Then you add in the money men doing a tweet and everyone RTs or quote/RTs hoping to gain attention from the originator or other readers.Remember Twitter is an evolving concept.  What a person does has more to do with how long they’ve been on.  Some are paranoid.  Later users go thru a time period of participating, then get busy with something else.Another factor is US vs. Outside US users in that 400mm. What is more fascinating is behavior of the ‘15%’ as Twitter passes 800mm. 

    1. Guest

      Lot of “reality” in your comments Dave. I think the busy nature of many folks outside of ‘social media gurus’ does keep them away from regular Twitter usage. Love it; keep it up!{Updated}

    2. raycote

      I must admit I one of those people that likes the idea of twitter as an global info scanner but I’m so overloaded by all the my other web activities it simply falls of my stack.I know I’m probably missing out on a lot of great stuff.I’d be drawn back in if there were some great crowd sourcing mechanism for distilling out the “too important to miss gems” by category and presented Flipboard style for easy serendipitous consumption.Maybe there are some similar filter presentation systems out there I should know about?Any suggestions?

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Not sure about that at present.  On the Twitter side, those that you follow probably fit a niche or two. So if there is breaking news on something, you’ll probably see activity.  Thinking from outside the box, most of that is probably linking to the story plus maybe a statement.On the tech side, you can at least get a feel if something truly had an impact in the gossip circles.

    3. raycote

      It occurs to me that my sense of overload might be some what relieved if readers could rate tweets from 1-10 and I as the reader could choose to see only those tweets that averaged a given rating and above.Maybe the author could prioritize their own tweets from 1-10 and the reader could pick a cutoff point.

  20. David A Fenton

    Talking is overrated, listening is underrated

    1. JLM


    2. apfwebs

      But, I think, for *logged-on* users, talking is under-rated (or at least less frequent than it used to be). Conversation can create more useful information.

    3. baba12

      As Plato is once quoted to have said “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” But in the media industry loud and constant garbage distribution is the mantra. On Twitter too your valued on number of tweets how many followers you have. If you were to measure how many of your tweets were re-tweeted because you said something profound to say the actual number of people doing that would be less than 0.1% of what Mr.Wilson is talking about.

      1. JamesHRH

        Great quote – bartender, baba’s next one is on me.

      2. andyswan

        I didn’t even know Plato spoke English

        1. David Semeria

          It’s Mister Plato to you.

    4. raycote

      Whats that?I didn’t hear you.I was too busy talking!

    5. Tobias Peggs

      There’s a lot that’s true in that simple statement. I’m thinking about this from a monetization perspective. A lot of people have assumed that Twitter will turbo-charge monetization by selling promoted tweets against key words tweeted. User-experience and relevance aside, that model assumes you can only monetize the 60MM who tweet. What about the 340MM who “just listen”. Well, by analyzing who (and what) they are listening to, you can actually infer a lot – like demographics and interests – which gives you plenty of scope to deliver targeted promoted tweets into those users’ twitter experience. (disclosure, we do some of that at OneRiot). So, yes, listening is underrated. But highly monetizable.

  21. Douglas Crets

    So, the point is not that these people are related to you — forgive me for thinking that was somehow related to the issue — but that some people just cruise the web looking for information. they are not communicators or disrupters, but readers.   So, what’s your feeling on Klout and other web influencer survey sites like Booshaka? Do you think they have legitimacy? What would you want to know about those services that you don’t know right now? It’s something I am looking into all the time. yesterday I talked to Ash, the chief engineer at Klout, about what goes into their algorithm. Enlightening stuff, but I also think that there has to be some hacker out there who can do better. 

  22. Aaron Klein

    This set of posts has influenced me quite a bit. We have several sharing behaviors rolling out on Riskalyze that involve getting input from your friends and our original instinct was to force a login.Now, in many cases, we’re letting that be a logged out user, though we’re creating a “light account” in the data store for tracking purposes.It’s a powerful way to gradually build engagement with your community.

  23. andyswan

    Anyone that thinks it would be good for more people to tweet needs to spend about 5 minutes watching a trending hashtag.

    1. fredwilson

      i’m going to try to get pappy to trend

  24. chris dixon

    I wonder if Facebook has similar numbers.  I’d guess people create content there at a higher rate.  I think of services like Twitter, Wikipedia, and Youtube as more publishing than social.  In these publishing-like models 1% create content.  In truly social models I would guess a significantly higher % create content.

    1. JamesHRH

      Totally agree. It’s a publishing platform with a social theme ( followings ).

    2. David

      spot on. and I think this exact insight, the twitter as a publishing model thing, should shape all the decisions twitter makes going forward.

    3. ShanaC

      I’m not so sure.  Ever go to a cocktail party and notice that certain people mix and dominate the conversations?  I get the feeling social is like that.

    4. fredwilson

      twitter is a hybrid between wordpress and facebookso it tumblr

      1. JamesHRH

        Yes. Status bar from Fb with openness of WP.I think you should just say Twitter is twitter. Tweets, followers, links. Thanks for coming out.

      2. Emil Sotirov

        …and so is Google+

      3. @yoyomel

        Twitter is a mass audience broadcasting platform. Facebook is more of an intimate 2-way street type of communication. G+ has consolidated both. 

        1. @yoyomel

          oops sorry for the pic

    5. Trevor Owens

      Andrew Chen posted the general rule of thumb for community sites is that out of 100 people that will read a site, 10 people will comment, and 1 person will start a discussion.

    6. testtest

      I like a continuum of:User-Content-User on one side. And User-User on the other.User-Content-User is when people gather around the content, and the content is the primary interface. User-User is when the point of interest is each other, and the primary interface is the user.At the extreme of User-User is Facebook, and dating sites, etc. At the extreme of User-Content-User is Wikipedia, Youtube, WordPress, etc.I put Twitter closer to the User-User side, maybe halfway between User-User and the middle. The interface is with other users and the content is very important as well. However the user who produced the content has significant weight. Which is why when Ashton Kutcher tweets he’s eating a bagel (or whatever) there is value.



    7. narendra

      We discovered broadcaster/viewer phenomenon with Webshots back in 1999-2000.  For photos it was pegged at 5/95.  I believe that Facebook is somewhere around 8% which is amusing because Zuckerberg talks about people everywhere becoming sharers when in fact all they have done is got more people in one place doing it and not really changed the dynamic.The activity announcements around behavior have helped to augment “passive” sharing.I wonder what Facebook’s logged out “viewer” numbers look like now that there are pages and profiles available on the open web.



    9. andyidsinga

      dont know about their numbers ..but i think facebook is dealing with similar issues. The other day ago i logged in to facebook to ‘like’ a friends product page ( btw, its 🙂 ) ..anyhow ..first time i logged in several months …and tada i get a ‘welcome back email’ so it seems this happens enough for fb to both detect and show up on the feature radar. Didnt used to get welcome back emails when i went a few months.

    10. Tobias Peggs

      @chris, i bet FB follows the 1:9:90, as most social services do. But i think the genius of FB is the “like” button which, effectively, brings more “90s” and “9” into the “1” bucket (benefits: more preference signals for personalization, higher engagement, better targeting for monetization, etc). Twitter has “favorite”, which is a similar function… but semantically, it feels more like a commitment than a casual “like”… so i bet usage is way lower (and the benefits not realized).

      1. Stephen Palmer

        The usage of Twitter’s “retweet” also engages the 9% and 90% very well. Perhaps someone doesn’t want to type something up, but totally connects with what someone says in a tweet. All they have to do is hit a button and their voice is pushed out to the internet with ease.

    11. Beth Goldman

      well, for the most part, you need to be logged into facebook to even browse content… much different than the openness of twitter.

  25. DJ Moore

    Awesome article.  Makes perfect sense.  Now the mainstream media needs to get their head around this and stop trying to make Twitter out to be something that it’s not!

  26. Carl Levinson

    Here, here … cheers.  Superb analysis.

  27. gregorylent

    I deleted my twitter account (4 years, 45,000 tweets, 4500 followers, 2500 followed) and signed back in as a read-only account … Best newspaper in the world, and curbed my addiction to expressing myself. Feels liberating.

  28. Tish Grier

    Exactly right about logged out users! However, a logged out user could be seen as a “lurker” in an online community.  And “lurking”–which used to be a way to get to know a community–somehow became a bad thing in the minds of those who demand a kind of radical transparency in online communities (either you participate the minute you arrive, or don’t arrive.  whatever you do, don’t be a creepy lurker!)So, perhaps many of those who are logged out don’t necessarily care to log in, or just log in from time to time, to “lurk.”  Whether or not a company can build a service for them requires knowing what they want.  Even then, like many lurkers, you may never get them to participate. Tha’s just life in online communities.

  29. Rohan

    ‘Let’s remember one of the cardinal rules of social media. Out of 100 people, 1% will create the content, 10% will curate the content, and the other 90% will simply consume it. ‘Thanks a lot Fred. That does put it in perspective. Happy to be in the 1%. 🙂

  30. Benjamin Bloom

    It’s really hard for most marketers to get behind the idea behind “for him, that’s Twitter.”  A self-organizing community that is experienced in so many different ways. Now we have some metrics that quantify this experience: many users see the value of Twitter without adding to the community, and Dick Costolo’s comfort with that idea is fantastic.  Now, to convince clients.

  31. Toregan

    Well blogged!

  32. sigmaalgebra

    “Let’s remember one of the cardinal rules of social media.  Out of 100 people, 1% will create the content, 10% will curate the content, and the other 90% will simply consume it.  That plays out on this blog, that plays out in Twitter, and that plays out in most of the services we are invested in.”Very nice!Three of the keys to good science are looking at the usually messy situation of the real world, making an accurate hypothesis of what the heck is going on, and confirming the hypothesis by testing it with objective, numerical data, and here you have done all three.There is the old “With all thy getting, get understanding”, but better might be “Get understanding before thy getting.”.  Your understanding of the potential and ‘what’s going on’ in Twitter has been amazing.That a venture partner understands with such originality, depth, and detail a business he is investing in is powerful stuff for the companies and the firm.This is the first case I have seen anywhere among venture partners of “deep domain knowledge” often claimed by venture partners.You likely have also avoided a big downside and chuck hole in the road:  Any entrepreneur with an innovative business has to be just terrified of having Board Members who have no significant understanding of the business yet have the power and responsibility to make important decisions about it.  E.g., now the Twitter management team does not have to fear that the next Twitter Board meeting will go all ‘a flutter’ and conclude that the 1% figure means that the company is in deep trouble and the management team has go.So, a Board all ‘a flutter’ in this way might seek new management to get the fraction of content creators up from 1% to, say, 90% and, thus, likely severely hurt the company — shoot it in the gut.Would such management ever do such a thing, ever extract defeat from the jaws of victory?  How about John Akers (there’s no money in software), Lou Gerstner (“I’m not going to drop $2 billion into another desktop operating system”), Carly Fiorina (We need to lay off thousands of HP workers and buy Compaq), Carol Bartz (I know how to get Yahoo going again), John Sculley (Apple needs my understanding of consumer marketing), Gil Amelio (What Apple needs is hard headed, bottom line oriented, mainline, semi-conductor industry, professional business management).There is also Pat Dunn (As COB, it is my responsibility to get an outside squad of ‘plumbers’ to stop those terrible leaks trying to get publicity for HP).  Uh, Pat, you are going too far; if you don’t want him working with the press to get publicity, then just tell him not to do that anymore. 

  33. ShanaC

    Beyond reading, what are they doing – is it problematic from twitters perspective that by not tweeting they are missing certain sorts of information…

  34. EmilSt

    Very good insight and useful stats. Thanks

  35. Nate Boyd

    It is what it is, but why is it “amazing”?

  36. Rich Thornett

    Apologies if I am missing something obvious …By the numbers above, 60/400 = 15% of visitors and 60/100 = 60% of active users are creating content at Twitter monthly. How does this validate a rule that 1% of users create content?

  37. Cameron Brain

    Isn’t that a pretty fundamental shift for 40% of active users to not be tweeting?   Fred, I’ve heard you say that Twitter isn’t a social network, it’s a communication channel.  What has Twitter become if it’s a channel for one (primarily celebs) to communicate with many (followers)?  Is that the same evolution you’ve seen w/ other such publishing platforms?

    1. leigh

      we are only at the beginning of micro-bloggings evolution.  I think we are just as likely to start seeing aggregation services that bring together disperate voices around a single topic. Right now it’s hard to see the totality of a topic in a steam form particularly if it’s real time event based (vs. a topic someone is curating via, percolate, equentia etc. )

  38. JaredMermey

    We like to call the listeners “content adherents,” although the simplicity of just calling them listeners is kind of nice…even if they’re really reading, not listening.

  39. Bob

    You mean to say Twitter is something other than a really bad RSS feed.  That’s what I saw, and why I’m not on Twitter.

  40. Internet Media Labs

    Fred very interesting data and very relevant in how we gauge signal vs noise. there is far to much noise as evidenced by that report PeekYou that became know as “Follower Gate” when they analyzed Gingrich claims to have over 1 mill followers and in fact has less than 10% being real followers. we need more transparency in what these number really mean…. a very large percent of Twitter accounts are automated bots vs real humans

  41. Peter Cranstone

    Then the key becomes extracting the value from the 10%. The 90% will never pay for it, so somehow the 1% need to be incentivized to keep the content flowing so the 10% (which will be 5%) pay for it.The volume is now there – what remains to be seen is how the value is extracted.

  42. maxniederhofer

    Agree. Twitter is one of those world-changing companies and, like blogs, the impact of the company shouldn’t be measured in how many people produce that content.However, it is important to understand that Twitter is very small compared to Facebook. 60MM people may have tweeted in the last month. How many of those people have @-replied to anyone? 20MM? Less?This matters because Twitter is one of the potential issuers of social identity. The next five years will see us fighting the possible monopoly of Facebook as an identity issuer. Twitter, like federated email-based identity discovery (#webfinger, my company Qwerly), is one of the alternatives. Twitter is arguably a better communication platform than Facebook. The Twitter username is the more natural public identifier (a major mistake by Facebook was UID versus username and the late launch of email). Facebook will also always be hampered by the wrong context of “friends”.Twitter in conjuction with email-based identity discovery can succeed in keeping the internet the open platform it is. I’m not sure whether people understand the “advanced persistent threat” that Facebook is. For all our sake, Twitter adoption must rise. Twitter has to be 10x the size it is today. I sincerely hope that with the latest funding round, focus at Twitter is switching to growth. As a board member, I hope you’re pushing them in that direction, Fred.

  43. hypermark

    Well you know the axiom, take care of the top end of the funnel (absolute user growth) and the bottom of the funnel will take care of itself, which is all good, but I seem to remember old Facebook numbers that spoke to the percentage of users that logged in daily, weekly, monthly, which spoke to the then-addictiveness of the service, as they were each ridiculously high.That may or may not be the right analog for thinking about Twitter’s success, but I guess the question is, beyond absolute number of users, what are the core metrics of user/usage success for Twitter?

    1. raycote

      “take care of the top end of the funnel (absolute user growth) and the bottom of the funnel will take care of itself”That is a very reusable metaphor!It is new to me.

  44. Sytse Sijbrandij

    400 million uniques on Analytics means 400 million unique devices, not users. So the the ratio will be different than 1/4. But still a valid point and insightful post, as usual.

  45. Kathy Gill

    Fred, I really really like your closing thought : lurkers are important in any community. Moreover, someone who lurks in one community may be part of the 10% — or even the 1% — in another. I believe an argument can be made that lurking precedes participation (well, precedes constructive participation).The 1-9-90 rule is not new. Here’s The Guardian from 2006 —… — but I believe the phenomena predates Web 2.0 (ie, bulletin boards, usenet and mailing lists) per this 1997 post from Jakob Nielsen:…

  46. famolari

    Twitter should offer simle analytics for user pages as a measure of logged-out activity.

  47. David Petersen

    I imagine the folks at Twitter and other websites appreciate the logged out users in a manner directly proportional to their percentage of ad revenue generated.

  48. Locally

    Great post Fred. We created our app Locally for neighborhoods. We agree with the 1%-10%-90% rule however we see these percentages slightly differ across different countries and cultures.

  49. Ronan Perceval

    These kind of stats make complete sense. For something like twitter to propogate at speed you need at least ten times as many people/users consuming content as producing. Only one person can product a tweet BUT thousands can consume it. If everyone tweeted as much as they consumed then hardly anybody would be reading anything. And if hardly anyone was consuming then twitter wouldn;t be growing.

  50. Dazed n Confused

    I just don’t get the argument, Fred. Before long you’ll be able to do this from gmail or any other email domain. I’ve had a Twitter account for years and maybe posted six times. Twitter needs to get real estate on my daily screen otherwise its a cute side project.Has Union Square sold shares in Twitter already? If yes, than this really goes against everything that a long term VC is supposed to do. If I’m wrong please explain why a VC gets to cash out before employees? 

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t think VCs should be able to sell before founders and early employees. I bought shares from early employees

  51. Bbblueeyez

    way to go Fred, from one of the second class citizens who loves Twitter and rarely, if ever, tweets

  52. Tracey Jackson

    Great blog Fred. Thank you.

  53. Marc Delurgio

    Burning Man has moved toward the 90/10/1 rule, and old school burners are very unhappy about it.  Burning Man has a principal that there should be “No Spectators” – every person should create art, participate in art, provide food, volunteer to run a service, etc.  When I went in 1997 there were even large signs that said “No Spectators.”  As the event has grown from 10,000 people in 1997 to over 50,000 this year, the debate is greater than ever about whether the spirit of Burning Man is being extinguished, as so many current attendees just come to party, appreciate the art and gawk at the uninhibited free spirits.  I see this as healthy, natural growth.  The real participants have created an amazing event, and if you have not yet seen the pictures and videos of the art from this year, you should do so – the scale and quality is unsurpassed for temporary art installations.  I’m not sure if curators fit in this real-life model (the 10% above) but where Burning Man in 1990 might have genuinely been 0/100 Spectators/Participants, 1997 was ~10/90.  At some point the ratio inverted and now I think it is more like ~60/40.  Burning Man will never get to the point where only 1% are participating, but it is interesting how the Spectator/Participant ratio has flipped and how this model relates to real life social networks – even those that start out as being exclusively for the creators.…

  54. hamilton wallace

    Yes, yes, yes. Remember, Twitter is a platform users will use the way (ways) they choose.  Not the way they “ought” to use it.  Or even the way they started using it.  Pay attention, people, customers/users are a moving target.

  55. eolpm

    This was our thinking in developing the new version of the Encyclopedia of Life that launched last week at – except for us:1. “curators” are people who apply their academic/professional credentials to ensure that our content is scientifically correct.2. “content creators” are people who add comments, create virtual collections, write articles, and whose projects are wired into EOL so that their content flows in when a harvest happens3. our goal is to not just get people to visit the site but to become actively interested in some aspect of biodiversity – how we measure that is a matter for another comment another day.Great article, thanks.bob

  56. Peter Mullen

    Duh.  I’ve been listening to Twitter effectively for over two years now and my biggest source of leads for sales, events, breaking news updates and more.  I was taught that good sales people need to be better listeners than talkers.  This obviously applies to Twitter as well.

  57. Sarah E

    I use twitter because Biz is vegan. He’s my inspiration. Go vegan for the sake of your health and the health of the planet. And because Biz says so!

  58. Guest

    yay, google makes 30 billion dollars out of 1 billion users, most of whom are not logged in

  59. michaelgalpert

    My dad recently informed me that my mom starts her morning checking email, the weather and makes sure to google “michael galpert twitter” to find out what I’ve been up to

    1. fredwilson