On Tuesday, Twitter Inc. announced another dreary set of quarterly earnings. While the company beat investor expectations, it’s still running at a loss of $132 million after taxes. Its fourth-quarter projections seem low. Worst of all, its namesake product has essentially failed to add any active American users in 2015.
Twitter stock fell more than 10 percent after the announcement.
Since it went public two years ago, investors have rarely considered Twitter’s prospects rosy. The sliver of Twitter’s users who are interested in how it fares as a corporation have gotten used to this, I think: There’s an idea you see floating around that, beyond avoiding bankruptcy, Twitter’s financial success has little bearing on its social utility. Maybe there are only 320 million humans interested in seeing 140-character updates from their friends every day after all. If you make a website that 4 percent of the world’s population finds interesting enough to peek at every month, you shouldn’t exactly feel embarrassed.
Yet the two entities that are called “Twitter”—the San Francisco-based corporation and the character-delimited social network—are not entirely disconnected. And similarly, no matter how many features Twitter-the-company tacks on to draw in new people, it’s still captive to the whims of Twitter-the-network. Recently, I’ve started to wonder if the corporation is trapped in more than a nominal way. What if the network is one of the company’s greatest obstacles, especially when it comes to growth?