|One of these is not like the other|
Considering that neither platform will ever have the option of charging their users any kind of subscription fee, both companies have had to be somewhat innovative in how to monetize a gigantic global digital communication service. Where Facebook has been mostly successful, Twitter continues to try to figure out a model that would make the service economically viable and financially sustainable. From where we stand here in January 2016, the most likely forecast will be that, at some point, Twitter will be subsumed into a larger ecosystem that can afford to subsidize its operating costs forever. The alternative is that it merely sinks beneath the waves, to be 'replaced' - as much as possible - by a large number of smaller services.
But here's the paradox. Of all the social media tools and services available today, the only one that is absolutely irreplaceable is Twitter. The world could simply not do without a Twitter, and the human and social costs if it were to disappear are hard to even imagine. Through Twitter, the way we see the world, the way we understand events in far-flung places, the way we participate and interact has changed forever. Long before the first headlines break on the news sites, those of us on Twitter are getting eyewitness reports, rumors, live video, cries of anguish and sobs of joy. With Twitter, we can now be everywhere at once, meeting the actual people who are doing the actual things that change the world. From Fukushima to Maidan, from Tunisia to Cairo, from Wall Street to Ferguson, we learned about the world first hand, and in real time. And we were able to make our voices heard.
So this is the paradox, and the challenge. Twitter may very well not be something that can be operated profitably. But as a people, as a society, as a species, we must never lose access to these kinds of global, instant communications. If Twitter were to fail as a business, it would be necessary to continue to operate it as some kind of global NGO - ideally under the auspices of the UN, but at any rate in a way that continues to permit the world to have unfettered access to this kind of real-time conversation. There's just no going back.