“Hey, did you hear about Service Y?” “No, should I have?” “Oh man, it’s going to be a Service X killer!” There is no doubt that the human species is given to hyperbole, but over the past few years, and especially in the technology field, it seems to have gone to extremes. Over the past few days, while the rumors were circulating about what would eventually be known as Google Buzz, the “killer” comment came roaring back to the fore front once again, and it got me to pondering about just how much we see this term appear in technology blogging. To prove my point I headed over to TechMeme and did a search on the word “killer” and found myself facing 52 pages of results. Here is a sample of what I found:
- Google Launching Twitter-Killer For Gmail! – Silicon Alley Insider
- Apple seen selling 1.4 million $600 “Kindle Killer” tablets in 2010 – AppleInsider
- Is Sezmi a Cable TV Killer? – Technologizer
- Dell’s Zino HD is a Candy-Colored Mac Mini Killer – Gadget Lab
You get the point, and to be fair, I don’t think I have ever seen a press release, and I see hundreds per week, where a company has ever called their own product a “killer” of some other service or product. This little nugget of creativity seems to spring exclusively from the minds of technology journalists. And in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I know I have used the term somewhere in my blogging history, but I honestly can’t remember when and where it was, so lets just say I’m guilty of it to be safe.
The question is, why does everything have to destroy something else when it comes into existence? Why can’t there be two microblogging services, why must the new one be the “killer” of the old one? That isn’t like the tales of the Greek gods where the new titans had to kill the titans of old to come into existence. It’s the Internet for crying out loud, we can have two of the same thing!
I think the answer is two-fold, and both are fairly simple ones to be honest: Everyone wants to be seen as an expert and it sure makes a catchy headline.
Lets say that a company does someday launch a social network that supplants Facebook as the top social network. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to point back to a blog post you wrote and say, “I was the first one to call that. I said it would be a Facebook killer!” Everyone wants to be recognized as an expert in their field, and if you can call a success long before anyone else, that goes a long way to doing that. Sure you’ll be wrong a bunch of times, but just like which ever service you were wrong about will be forgotten, so will your headlines.
The second potential answer is that it just looks a lot catchier. Is a headline such as “Three aspects of Social Network X improve upon Facebook” going to draw you into reading an article as opposed to “Social Network X is a Facebook Killer!”? It’s short, punchy, filled with action and leaves enough to the imagination to help draw you in.
The whole “killer” thing is a minor complaint, and it is a byproduct of the sound bite driven world of journalism that the 24-hour news networks have helped to cultivate. Everything needs to be a sound bite now, or into something that will fit in the 140 characters Twitter gives you. I’m afraid the “killer” headline is here to stay in the world of technology blogging, although I do feel like standing up some times and asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” when two services seem to get thrown into the coliseum to fight to the death for our amusement.