first unveiled to ReadWriteWeb back in October 2007, Semantic Web application Twine has traveled a rocky road. The product is a knowledge management service, in practical terms similar to social bookmarking site Delicious. However, almost from the start there have been vocal critics of Twine.Since it was
The latest critique is a scathing post by Semantic Web consultant Greg Boutin, entitled Twine in Freefall?. Boutin argues that Twine's traffic has taken a dive recently. We followed up with Twine founder Nova Spivack for his response. He admits that traffic has declined "20-25%," but says that Twine is focusing on an all-new version of its product.
Over the years Nova Spivack hasn't been shy about hyping his company, sometimes dissing other products in the process. On that note, we should note that Spivack and Boutin appear to have had a personal squabble. In Boutin's post he says that earlier this year Spivack "decided to libel me on twitter, through tweets he has since deleted." We don't know the specifics of this, but clearly this battle with Spivack has colored Boutin's view of Twine now. Nevertheless, the statistics Boutin points to are valid.
The premise of Greg Boutin's post is that Twine had earlier in the year trumpeted passing Delicious and Friendfeed in traffic - ReadWriteWeb was the first to cover the Delicious trend, back in March. However now Boutin points to statistics from Compete, Alexa and Quancast showing a marked drop in traffic. Compete was the source we used in our March post, so below we've pasted comparison charts from then and now:
Compete chart from March '09 showing that Twine was trending upwards, while Delicious growth appeared to have tapered off.
Compete chart showing that Twine did indeed pass Delicious in March '09, however over June-July Twine's traffic has plummeted but Delicious held steady.
Twine: Yes Traffic Has Dropped, But We're Focusing on Version 2...
ReadWriteWeb questioned Twine about these statistics and the company admits that "our internal data shows us down 20-25%."
Twine appears to put some of this down to problems with version 1 of its product. The company told us that it is putting all of its focus and marketing efforts into a brand new version (more on that below). Therefore the drop in traffic is something Twine and its investors are comfortable with, for now.
Nova Spivack also told us that Twine had indexing problems with Google over the summer. If this was the case, that may be a big reason for the decline in Compete. Spivack explained that "we have about 500K pages that should be indexed. They [Google] are only indexing 140K pages, but we're basically not worrying about it, since T2 [version 2, see below for details] will change the game and the way we deal with Google anyway. . ."
Twine 2.0: Make or Break
Twine says that it is busy working on a new version of its product, which is why it hasn't been active on the PR front in the last few months. The company is hoping the new version gets its momentum back.
Nova Spivack elaborated on the new version to ReadWriteWeb, which we'll quote in its entirety because it illuminates Spivack and company's marketing approach:
"In the last 9 months we have made a breakthrough with the new version of Twine that changes the economics of vertical search and navigation on the Web. This new technology enables Twine to provide Web-scale faceted navigation and search across numerous vertical search categories. We are able to index structured data (like recipes, products, reviews, or any kind of database driven or XML content) with search-engine performance and scalability. This is a huge leap beyond what we were able to deliver in the first version of Twine."
"As a result of this breakthrough, we have made a strategic decision to focus all of our resources on bringing Twine version 2 (T2) to market by the end of the year. Version 1 of Twine will remain online until we are able to cutover to version 2. We are doing no further work on version 1 and no marketing for it, either. We are of course still supporting it from a technical and user perspective, however. But all our focus is on T2 moving forward."
Twine also told us that it has signed deals with nearly a dozen major content providers and brands to integrate the new search capabilities into their online services. See our March post for more context about the new version.
So what do we think about this latest twist to the Twine saga? With language like "breakthrough," "changes the economics" and "huge leap beyond," once again Twine is hyping itself up. While there have always been signs that Twine is at least partly delivering on its clear promise, the fact is that Twine continues to struggle to deliver a product the market wants. This accounts for its inconsistent growth and much of the criticism of usability which Twine has endured.
We continue to cheer for Twine, but it does seem that version 2 is make or break for the company.