Over the weekend, I had the realization that I almost never use instant messengers anymore. A year or more ago, I would have had at least three instant messaging conversations going at all times on top of everything else I was doing and all of the chatrooms I would be hanging out in. Now, I almost never use instant messenger. I am lucky if I have a single instant messenger conversation in an entire day. When I sat back and thought about what was to blame for my reduced IM usage, I found that the biggest reason was probably Twitter. While I will admit that my social circle has shrunk a bit since I left college, I attribute the majority of my internet based conversations to Twitter.
Twitter is far more efficient at spreading information than instant messenger. Before you start yelling at me, I said it is more efficient, not more stable! While IM is realtime, if you have to pass along information to a group of people, it is far easier to do on Twitter where you only have to say something once rather than repeat the information to every person who needs to be kept informed. It is also much easier to rick roll a large group of people at the same time! Of course, if I need information to be relayed in real time, I will still use IM as I hate the phone.
While IM still has its place, I think Twitter is far easier to manage than multiple conversations, especially when you use applications like TweetDeck. Being able to manage you communications is the key to getting things done. While IM may be better to use for topics that need lots of discussion, Twitter is probably the ideal way outside of a chatroom or message board to pass around small bits of information to a large number of people. Twitter will never replace IM, but it is a great supplement that will continue to become a larger communication medium for the foreseeable future, no matter how unstable the service is.
Has your IM usage been affected by services like Twitter and FriendFeed? If so, how? I would love to hear some feedback on this topic.