The Dickbar worked fine

by greg on March 31, 2011

Twitter’s removed the Dickbar, the little visually-distracting bar that showed trending and sponsored topics, from its iOS client. Because of this, a lot of people are drawing a lot of incorrect conclusions about Twitter’s potential to make a buck. The argument goes something like this: “You can’t grow a mass consumer service without advertising and then add it later – your users will rebel. Twitter grew big, added the Dickbar in order to draw more attention to its sponsored tweets, and its users rebelled. Twitter can’t monetize. Twitter is screwed.”

I don’t have any hard evidence, but I suspect the opposite is true – the Dickbar performed like a champ. Why? Because Twitter said as much in their blog:

We believe there are still significant benefits to increasing awareness of what’s happening outside the home timeline. Evidence of the incredibly high usage metrics for the QuickBar support this.

‘Incredibly high usage metrics’ for an advertising product? Normally there’d be smiles all around. Now you might be a cynic, and not believe what Twitter’s telling you – but I suspect you’re wrong. Baldfaced lies about company metrics are stupid. They require a conspiracy, they hurt the morale of the honest employees who know about the lie, and in a large organization like Twitter’s, they eventually leak to the press. If Twitter says ‘incredibly high usage metrics’, there were incredibly high usage metrics.

So why remove the Dickbar? I suspect it got yanked because it interfered with a more important priority – client share. The silent majority of people, the type that internet cognoscienti consider ‘mouth-breathing buffoons‘, were using the Dickbar in droves, since it was simply reflecting their own tastes back at them. Only a small percentage of people were annoyed or offended – that tiny portion of the world that acts and thinks like we do. But that was enough to throw the Tweetdecks of the world a lifeline, at a time when Twitter would rather they drown.

Long-term control over the client experience is way more important to Twitter than short-term monetization, so the Dickbar had to go, in spite of its effectiveness and general popularity. While we’ll see Son of Dickbar eventually – filtered to match our class prejudices, naturally – Twitter needs to beat the other client companies into submission first. I doubt it’ll take that long.

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