Some random thoughts on Twitter.
I don’t like Twitter because of it’s core mechanic: Interruption. I dislike Instant Messaging for the same reason.
Nevertheless, lots of people do like Twitter, and it seems worthwhile to consider why that might be.
I’d also like to understand what sort of “lock-in” Twitter might have over its users.
Brevity is the soul of diversion. Short messages are diverting without being demanding: books->articles->blog posts->tweets.
Twitter’s 140-character limit ensures that its users never have to think too hard. (Sorry, but it’s true.)
Twitter is a (micro-)blogging platform. Its limitations allow it to offer an extremely simple interface, and rapid setup process.
Twitter offers an RSS-like “feed” service, that pushes updates to you.
Twitter historically offered an SMS broadcast service, which could save its users real money, but this seems to be de-emphasized these days.
Twitter provides “universal sign-in”; anyone using the service must be logged in. This has implications for audits and comments.
Twitter’s universal sign-in means that publishers get a lot more information about their readers than they would on the web.
Presumably, the follower information that Twitter offers is what explains the appeal of this platform to publishers.
Twitter’s universal sign-in means that comments are more organically integrated into the platform; there’s no need to log in to comment.
Twitter comments, in fact, are so organic they hardly exist at all; one simply uses the ‘@’ convention to reply to another user.
The ‘@’ convention means that your comments go unseen (or will be hopelessly opaque) unless a user follows both you and the OP.
Since a reader can see who you’re replying to (even if he doesn’t follow the OP), comments drive traffic to the original tweet.
Since a reader cannot see your comments unless he’s already following you, commenting on a popular tweet draws you no traffic.
It appears the best way to gain Twitter followers is to draw comments from other users with lots of followers.
It should not be overlooked that Twitter isn’t *really* part of the web; it has an HTTP front-end, but is really a private network.
It seems pretty futile to attempt to build a head-on competitor to Twitter; the network effects of its universal sign-in are powerful.
It’s interesting that typepad (with typepad micro) seems to be trying to go head-to-head with Twitter. Lots of luck, guys.
If you wanted to destroy Twitter’s lock-in (and, really, who doesn’t like to break things?) it seems best to attack with a client.
Support you built a cross-service microblog client (i.e. that interoperated with both Twitter and typepad micro) akin to modern IM clients.
In a cross-service client, usernames (and the ‘@’ convention) would be extended to reflect the originating service.
Such a client would also support multiple, simultaneous logins to different services.
There might be something like this already; as I may have mentioned, I don’t much like Twitter.
All the paragraphs of this post are, however, fully tweetable.