Powncing Yourself to Death
Twitter is notorious for having their servers go down and for having a limited feature set. So how in the world did they outlast Pownce and drive them to their extinction?
Pownce had everything going for it. It had a slicker UI, an AIR app, and better uptime than Twitter. It was also a collaboration that involved Kevin Rose of Digg and it was supposed to be the Twitter-killer that nobody saw coming. However, due to numerous internal conflicts and marketing mistakes, Pownce never took off and it ultimately shut down on December 15, 2008.
Alleged infighting with a major influencer, Kevin Rose, worked against Pownce. It spilled out publicly and ultimately led Kevin to promote the competing service (Twitter). In fact, today Kevin Rose has one of the highest number of followers on Twitter.
Twitter is a brilliant brand. Twitter is slang for chatter and tweeting is the act of chatting. It’s something that people can immediately identify with. Whereas Pownce, is well, Pownce. It’s difficult to relate to and really has nothing to do with the service. Not to mention, it sounds violent.
Pownce was betting that their expanded feature set would steal people away from Twitter. Twitter can only send 140 characters of text, period! Whereas Pownce had ratings, events, files and more. To any sensible business-person or marketer it would seem that Twitter didn’t have a chance.
However, in the paradox that is sometimes the Internet, Pownce made a fatal flaw. They cut off the ability for developers to innovate, market and create buzz around the service. Sure, they had an API, but it would only allow people to tap into the data, not innovate the service.
Twitter on the other hand, possibly by accident or simply because they were distracted by server failures, sat by and did nothing. Instead, they pushed their API and allowed third party developers to create whatever they wanted. That resulted in incredible user supported tools like TweetDeck, TwitPic and TweetStalk. Twitter’s lack of interference (and lack of innovation) actually propelled its popularity.
Sometimes you really can be too late to a party. In spite of Twitter’s service outages, their users continued to be loyal to the service and hold out hope for its improvement (it was inevitable really, just a matter of time.) While Pownce, with its lame branding, public conflict and over-developed features, wasn’t enough to dethrone Twitter. The end result was a promising competitor that ultimately pownced itself to death.