The Twitter honeymoon is over

Technological fads come and go as quickly as David Beckham's facial hair, but few gain as much ground, or publicity, as last year's big thing, Twitter.

First there was blogging, which gave a vanity publishing platform to a planet full of self-obssessed nobodies who were under the misapprehension that anyone gave a tuppeny toot about their worthless lives.

Anyone with an opinion to air, or a story to tell, or an amusing picture of a cat with its head stuck in a yoghurt pot, could get their fifteen seconds of fame.

Yes, I know it was originally supposed to be 15 minutes, but the population has grown rapidly, and when Andy Warhol said "everyone" he meant everyone with access to modern media. So there are now too many of us and not enough fifteen minuteses to go round.

The blogging era had its stars. Prostitutes, fake or otherwise, ended up with startlingly lucrative publishing contracts and spotty nerds ended up running multi-million dollar web sites. Nowadays every business from Microsoft to your local sandwich shop keeps its punters updated hourly with news of the latest security hole and meaningless witterings and exciting announcements about the soup of the day, all from the blogosphere.

The Internet was awash with useless information about insignificant entities sharing their deepest secrets with anyone unlucky enough to stumble across their badly-designed web page. Many of us hankered for the days when thirteen-year-old girls would commit their heartflet emotional outpourings to a pink-bound paper diary, secreted under the bed, where the only people ever to read it would be snickering younger brothers or concerned mothers.

The best thing you could say about blogging was that it was restricted to those with access to a computer. The very act of sitting down at a desk to write lent the process some gravitas, a kind of structured intent. Blogging was premeditated and cerebrally filtered to some extent. It had an immediacy which some found attractive, but it also had a more pensive quality than its irksome follow-up, the all-pervading Tweet.

It's hard to believe that Twitter is just four years old. It has invaded our collective conscience so completely in such a short period of time that some tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists swear it is a government plot to interface directly with our brains.

Celebrities and politicians have all fallen under the spell of the 140 character messages. It's no longer enough to have more fake Facebook friends than your schoolyard chums / political opponents / Hollywood co-stars. You now have to have more Twitter Followers.

Tweeting celebrities have reached messianic status with millions upon millions of slobbering minions waiting with bated breath for their every uttering. Undisputed King of the Tweeters is Stephen Fry: television presenter, novelist, national treasure, friend to the wonderful and late Douglas Adams and the owner of a brain the size of a prize Hallowe'en pumpkin. Despite all of that, he is also the man almost single-handedly responsible for persuading erudite, intellectually unchallenged adults that telling the entire world that they are "on the train and thinking about having a beer from the buffet car" is acceptable behaviour.

If you are waist deep in the Amazon with a poisonous fish trying to swim up you urethra, people will probably be interested. If Demi Moore has just tried to goose you behind a potted palm at the Golden Globes ceremony, it might be worth a mention. And if your dad is a 74-year-old philosophical genius you owe it to the world to share his thoughts. But nobody cares what you had for lunch. Or if you are going to meet Peter at the cinema tonight. Except maybe Peter. And his wife.

Twitter's popularity caught the world by storm but it seems that this is a case of the candle that burns brightest sputtering out quicker than anyone could have guessed.

Stephen Fry has realised what a time sump social networking is, particularly when the tools with which to carry it out are constantly nestling in your trouser pocket. Blaming writing commitments which, if not met, could possibly lead to the loss of a gonad, Fry has drawn a veil over his Twitterings. Many tears have been shed.

Ricky Gervais, himself something of a yesterday's big thing, gave up on his tweeting career after just six messages saying that he just didn't get it.

And now CNN news is suggesting that Twitter has become a victim of its own success.

In the beginning, Twitter was the domain of tech geeks, digital marketeers and hacks. For a while it was actually a useful tool. But now the signal to noise ratio is off the chart and finding a useful snippet of information, or a juicy bit of gossip, is like finding a live turkey on Christmas Eve.

Levels of use peaked in June last year and haven't moved much since then, and mentions of the micro-blogging method in mainstream media have all but dried up. With any luck, once the last of the hype has died down, and the owners realise that they don't have the next big money spinner on their hands and so halt their attempts to completely kill it off with invasive advertising, Twitter can get back to doing what it once did so well.

Letting nerds tell each other what's going on in the world of technology.