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The Death of Plurk

I was musing today about Twitter and Plurk, and how strongly people seem to feel about one or the other. I'm going to try to avoid all the obvious talking points here (i.e., Twitter has no threaded conversations, Plurk encourages nonsense posts, Twitter is always down, Plurk is always down, etc., etc.) and concentrate instead on market adoption. Twitter is growing its population and visitors rapidly every month (Compete pegged it at 3.4m uniques last November), and some people have said that it will become as big as Facebook this year. Meanwhile, Plurk numbers are relatively stagnant, hovering between 200k and 300k uniques. Even Friendfeed seems to be doing better (a little over 500k/month), although the difference between that and the market leader is so huge as to be almost laughable.

Twitter vs Plurk vs Friendfeed

Let's take a moment to think about this data. In the last half of 2008, Twitter numbers almost doubled from 1.8m to 3.4m, which is a jawdropping feat in and of itself. Plurk hasn't budged since it hit its tipping point in May, and Friendfeed has grown by only about 15%. (I'm not the only one who noticed this either.)

However, remember that Compete only tracks website visits, and a significant portion of Twitter's users come to it via desktop or mobile clients. How "significant" is significant, you ask? Try 73%. Yes, roughly 3 out of 4 Twitter users access the service via a third-party client. The Compete numbers are just the tip of the iceberg then, because they don't take a huge portion of Twitter's actual usage into account. (Note that I'm not implying that is getting 10m uniques a month; it's highly likely that mobile/desktop numbers have some overlap with the web numbers.)

What do these figures mean to us? Well, it either means everything, or it means nothing. I try to use Plurk whenever I can because a lot of my IRL friends love it. Of course, my Plurk account is just a mirror of my real microblog at Twitter. (Some time ago, Syndeo built a Twitter/Plurk mirroring application to port our tweets over so our timelines would have more activity.) But I cannot shake the feeling that Plurk has started to fade into obscurity - popular only in the Philippines in much the same way as Friendster is, or Orkut is in Brazil, or Fotolog in Argentina. One wonders if perhaps Friendster should buy Plurk, and then resell the whole kit and caboodle to Globe Telecom?

Incendiary comments aside though, my experience with Twitter is hugely different from that of Plurk. Plugging into Twitter is almost like plugging into the Internet itself. Nearly everything that's going on in the world (and on other planets) can be viewed or subscribed to in real-time. When Twoogie got featured on Techcrunch last week, I watched for hours as hundreds of people started talking about our apps via Search.Twitter (or via the absolutely brilliant Tweetdeck). And I realized that the reason this was possible was because tweets are so granular and portable. This kind of Internet-wire-tapping wouldn't make any sense using the Plurk approach because the timeline view is too unwieldy for anything but leisure reading. (And please don't tell me to use the mobile version instead. In my mind, Plurk divorced of its signature interface is just Pownce, and we all know how that story ended.)

It's hard to predict where Plurk will go over the next 12 months. It's in a dangerous state right now; just enough users to be challenging to manage, but not enough to be a serious contender. And most depressingly, it's not growing. It's very likely that it'll be rolled into a bigger company the way Pownce was rolled into Vox, although I have a feeling that the only reason that deal happened at all was due to incestuous nature of the Valley. (The Plurk guys, conversely, are based in Ontario.)

Twitter on the other hand is on the way to hitting the mainstream, in much the same way as blogs did at the turn of the century. It's like a basic utility now, and we'll see more and more people integrate or build on top of it for a long while to come. It's difficult to peg exactly what is causing Plurk's stagnation, although there are a couple of theories out there. My own theory is that Plurk's unconventional layout is preventing it from being seen as anything other than a fancy website, when it needs to be so much more than that if it wants to compete at this level.

If you haven't already, please follow me on Twitter ... or Plurk, whichever of the two you like more.

[ UPDATE: Ia wrote a nice response here. ]

Reader Comments (24)

It's unfortunate that plurk has so many requirements... it's still a shiny new toy for me, but I don't see myself being able to maintain it as long as I've been maintaining my twitter account.

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLizz

One of the advantages Twitter has is an official API. This allows 3rd party sites to develop services that use twitter, making it more functional and visible to users.

With no official API, Plurk is just that: Plurk.

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoki


Fair point, and it does beg the question: where would Plurk be now if it did sport an API? Very few APIs have proven to be as successful as Twitter's, and you have to wonder if there's really room for another microblogging web service right now. For instance, Friendfeed's API has been around since March of last year, and it hasn't really made much of a difference. Programmable Web only lists 9 apps built with it.

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterluis

"I try to use Plurk whenever I can because a lot of my IRL friends love it. "

I resurrected my Twitter account for the same reason. Suddenly, a lot of my offline friends have signed up. I attribute this to the fact that they all got iPhones and Twitter is one for them to make the most out of their purchase.

Anyway, I still prefer Plurk because it was designed to encourage senseless posts, and that's the kind I prefer.

Of course, this can be exploited, and that's why it attracts a more "pedestrian" crowd than Twitter. Because of this, I agree with your assessment that Plurk may become the next Friendster.

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPau

Whatever happened to Jaiku?

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

With an official API, devs would be able to develop apps more easily & with more confidence (in terms of reliablility & stability). There are some apps built for Plurk but I don't think I'll see a list this long: . Granted though that a number of the apps were built to compensate for Twitter's straightforwardness/lack of features (depending on how you look at it).

In terms of microblogging, in Twitter, you seem to have a more "intimate" replies with each other but that's it. The biggest advantage Plurk has over Twitter is the potential to create conversations within the platform. [and if we put out the Karma system, this could mean more meaningful discussions].

At the moment, I'm sticking with Plurk with an occasional crosspost to Twitter. I find it tiresome to track all posts/responses on Twitter with a single stream.

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoki

Nice write-up! Agree with how Plurk encourages nonsense posts. With its karma points requirement, users opt to post even the most trivial things that they do or say (i am sometimes guilty of this, though. LOL)

And oh, btw (another nonsense that quite gets in my nerves), i just hate users who keep on using the term "deplurking" (or plurking out) I mean, hello?! Just because we've accepted "google" as a verb (which was very hard for me to accept), doesn't mean we can use any other popular site name the same way. sheesh!

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterheidelicious


Jaiku was bought by Google some time ago. Compete pegs its monthly uniques at less than 100k, which is depressing to say the least. (


"The biggest advantage Plurk has over Twitter is the potential to create conversations within the platform."

I suppose it really depends on what your definition of a "conversation" is, and what a "microblog" is. I've always found Plurk to be closer to an open chatroom or a discussion form without a topic than a microblog. The chances of a meaningful conversation coming together is pretty slim. It's not just the Karma system either, it's the tendency of people to pile on to a thread whether they have anything useful to contribute or not. Because the medium is "cheap" (i.e., you spend about 5 seconds thinking about what to say with your 140 characters), the quality of discussion is usually pretty flat. So you end up with "LOL"s and "OMFG!!1"s and dancing bananas by the truckload. (Conversely, you wouldn't get this behaviour on Twitter because people would unfollow you as soon as you started broadcasting crap like that.)

January 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterluis

Ah. Well, good for them. With all the money they have it's nice that Google has such a generous streak, buying out near-useless web apps.

January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

[...] my response to The Death of Plurk and the comments on it. This is by no means comprehensive, just lengthy enough to be a standalone [...]

[...] various pundits basically calling Plurk dead, will Plurk go the way of Friendster, fail to find a significant audience in the Western world, and [...]

"I’ve always found Plurk to be closer to an open chatroom or a discussion form without a topic than a microblog."

That's it and I think that's what makes Plurk and Twitter two different animals.

Regarding "spam/junk", I believe it's a reflection of the casual nature of the platform, and it's cozy. It's cozy enough that I post more on Plurk than on Twitter.

Some people may actually like "spam comments" as it proves that their plurk is being followed & read. Others don't like this and opt to make their plurks open only to friends, just like Twitter. To filter further, one can use cliques.

Ia is right. To each his own. I'm just glad these services are here and there are options.

January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoki

Cross-posting this from Ia's blog:

"To each his own. Get rid of the herd mentality and do as you please, or get out."

Hehe, I really don't think there was ever any argument that individual users will have individual preferences. That's a given, and it's beside the point. The motivation behind writing my death-knell entry was the observation that Plurk usage is going nowhere, and trying to figure out the reasons for the stagnation. Remember that there were quite a few people who loved Pownce as well, but that fact alone wasn't enough to keep it alive.

I realize that it's difficult to discuss the apparent demise of someone's favorite web toy without fostering a negative vibe, but I do think it's possible to look at the facts as presented and come to a similar conclusion.

January 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterluis

Мне кажется это не совсем точно. На эту тему имеется несколько мнений. И у каждого человека со своим мировоззрением свое мнение.

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLec

Всегда можно найти компромиссы и прийти к общему решению. Если вам что-нибудь не нравится попробуйте что-нибудь другое.

January 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMirov

and other photographic stuff

April 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervasiley

[...] Interview Series Plug: Helga Weber Interview re The Bebigerls Luis Buenaventura’s article: The Death of Plurk Plurk VS. Twitter Unofficial Plurk API Plurk Karma: Does It Really Matter? Plurk Karma Infinity [...]

[...] everyone spent their Holy Week vacation/holidays. We also talk about Luis Buenaventura’s article: The Death of Plurk, Plurk vs. Twitter, and Plurk Karma: Does It Really [...]

news from Adobe MAX (first info on flash player 10 and more)

April 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervityanya

Κοινωνικά μη ενεργοποιημένοι πολίτες.

April 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervalention


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November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen @ Caboodle Shop

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April 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterabsolutely love

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