About fifteen minutes after Twitter came on the scene, alternatives started crowding through the door behind it. So far, none of them have really made a difference. Why the crowd?

There are ads · And as they say, if the product you’re using is free it’s not the product, you’re the product. This seems to be the main driver behind App.net.

I like App.net, but I don’t like this argument, even though I also mostly don’t like ads. You’d have to be a moron to ignore the historical success of services which are free, but with (mostly-disliked) ads. The proportion of people reading this who haven’t used such a service in the preceding 24 hours rounds to zero.

So App.net seems like an interesting science experiment to me; I’d be surprised if it worked, but that’s true of all the best science experiments.

What Twitter should do about ads is insert smart, flagged, targeted, ones that share its prime virtue of concision, open the doors to clients, and impose only one rule on client builders: Don’t fuck with our ads.

The Fail Whale · They survived it. Nuff said.

140 characters, no pictures · That’s a feature not a bug. I think the Right Number is maybe a little north of 140, but Will Shakespeare wrote “brevity is the soul of wit” in 1602 and that’s just as true today.

It’s just really hard to improve on an extremely dense stream of utterances, the utterer of each having been forced to think about how to compress what needed to be said into the space available.

The earliest wave of Twitter-replacements was all about giving you a little more room and a little more multimedia, and they’re pretty well gonzo. (Hm, Plurk still seems to be there.)

No open API · Twitter has one, but it’s pretty ruthlessly controlled and there’s no suggestion that Twitter is interested in interoperating with anyone as a peer.

This was one irritant that led to the rise of identi.ca, whose call to arms was being based on open-interop. And indeed, if there were a will to build microblogging services in a truly interoperable way, the technology probably wouldn’t be a barrier.

I’m on board with this gripe; it still feels to me like a bug when a large-scale Internet-based communication channel is also a proprietary product.

It’s not Open-Source · Oh well. Not in my top-10 gripes list.

Ownership · This is something that serious Twitter users should consider seriously. If you care about what you write, bear in mind that what you write is Twitter’s as much as yours; you should assume that they can and will use it for whatever business purpose seems good to them, whether you like it or not. You should not assume that they’ll even make it possible for you to retrieve your own words.

I repost my Twitter to my blog because I really want to have things I write available from a space I control; but I understand that this is a minority viewpoint.

Shaky business model · If you like Twitter and are willing to make a bet on it, you should be worried whether they’re going to last. So far, I’ve seen very little evidence of coherent ideas on how they’re going to go about making money. I had some Twitter shares and I sold them.

What Twitter should do about ads is is insert smart, flagged, targed, ones that... oh wait, I said that already.

They’re meanies · Well, yep, history would seem to show that it’s not advisable trying to build a business based on partnership with Twitter, where by “partnership” I mean a relationship where they can turn your business off any time they feel like.

Welcome to the private sector. The only “relationships” with a chance have to be mutually beneficial.

The Future · Me, I suspect that Twitter will make it through, will remain useful, but never become a titan. I’d like to see real interoperable short-form publishing, but I suspect that the current melange of Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and whoever else can make a go of it is about what we’re stuck with.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Nelson (Sep 10 2012, at 08:41)

One addition: while the entire Twitter service is not open source, Twitter has contributed a fair amount of open source code. Bootstrap is hugely influential on web design and systems components like Zipkin, Twemcache, etc are pretty great. More here: https://dev.twitter.com/opensource


From: Anton McConville (Sep 10 2012, at 11:10)

While I'm not sure about how they'll make money either, I firmly believe that the data they accumulate over time becomes more valuable. Same for FaceBook.

Think of future generations researching family trees, history, cold cases, social trends, advertising successes etc. I have little info about my own grandparents on my dad's side. If I tweeted regularly, I leave a trail for my grandchildren. So I think one aspect of Twitter's value is way in the future.

And journalism. I think I read that the first news of the attack of Bin Laden aired on Twitter - from a guy living in the area.

Newsprint gives us day old news written by journalists following up. Twitter gives us real time news written by individuals experiencing events.

When I was studying history in high school, I remember my teacher telling me how scared he felt during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He told me something not in the textbook, and it brought it to life. Made it more real. That's kind of what Twitter does to news.

Not sure how they can monetize it, but I think there's a goldmine in there somewhere.


From: John Cowan (Sep 10 2012, at 11:34)

During my time at Google, I suggested that Google adopt the McQuary limit of 4 lines x 79 characters = 160 characters (including newlines) for GMail signatures, but this was not done. Most of my vast rotating list at <http://ccil.org/~cowan/signatures> are McQuary-compliant, but not all; the longest ones are 7 lines.


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