David Weinberger just wrote a blog post that I think does sum up well why twitter is such a big success from a technological view. I’d like to add my thoughts to this and show my reasons why Twitter is that big and why it “won’t go away when the hype is over”.
First Weinberger writes about people, who think Twitter is not a big thing because you are not interested in knowing when somebodies cat just rolled over. Either these people are right and twitter is pure nonsense (this assumes that twitter users are stupid) or these people are wrong – mostly because they don’t know what they’re talking about. It doesn’t need rocket science to know the answer. Twitter has value, otherwise not everybody would be using it.
Secondly, Twitter is very simple. This makes it get adopted by the people very fast. Usability is the most important factor in technology adoption – and signing up for twitter is easier than creating an average e-mail-account. Then sending messages is easy, shouting out your thoughts to the world too. These simple 140-character-messages and the twitter API amke a lot of software possible, that builds upon that. “RT” means re-tweet, hashtags define the topic of a tweet. Twitter-clients were born, 200+ websites rely completely on twitter doing its work. Twitter gets built in in blogs, Facebook, online-magazines and everywhere else.
3rd, Twitter fulfills a lot of needs. Its a all-in-one-device. Some people talk about their cat rolling over, but most use it to share interesting websites or to communicate to other twttier-users in an SMS-style (again, no big learning-curve as everybody knows how SMS are used). Some only use it to get these informations. Some use it for advertisement (amazon for example) or SEO-like to attract readers. It also directly competes with Digg, as people built layers of software that count the re-tweets of URLs – which defines their importance.
4th, its social. The web is primarily used by “ordinary people” for social interactions. As you can connect to your friends, easily set up a profile that satisfies the human need to represent itself (or “to put yourself in a box” as I like to see it with most online profiles that mostly tell people what you are not opposed to what you are – malicious sidenote over), all of that what many people seek in the internet are found in this one place. I even referred to David Weinberger by linking to his twitter profile – as you can get all infos you need about him on that page or on his homepage that you can find in his Twitter-profile. Maybe Twitter will be the centralized info page about yourself someday. Or is it already this way? Damn, I need to rework my crappy profile page!
Don’t also forget that you can easily connect to people that you would never know how to connect them if they weren’t on twitter. Companies can give support for their products with a twitter account – or gather feedback. This direct communication to the people you want to address is an important social factor.
5th, Twitter has dominance. As all social websites, the ones where your friends are attract you, or vice-versa. Therefore, the Twitter-clones have lost the microblogging-war (as I would like to call it), as most users are on Twitter. This is the same with all those social websites that keep dying – why would I want to join a new social website, if Facebook already does far more than the new one? Even if it has a nice feature, Facebook is extensible, so that feature could be added to Facebook pretty easily.
After all, Twitter has the potential to just replace SMS and services like Digg. It already is dominant in terms of microblogging. Twitter will also find a financial model to make them last – they generate enough traffic to be able to raise more than enough money with ads, but they decided they don’t need to do that.
A last mention in terms of Twitter-usability: Last week I talked about the_gman being a Twitter-spammer because he uses a lot of short answers that don’t help anyone else following his twitter stream. There was a misunderstanding that a lot of people showed me in their comments. What I learned is that you can set an option in your twitter-settings that let you only see the tweets with @username in them if you follow the other person (in this case @username). Twitter SHOULD set this in the beginning. If you are getting a lot of these @replies, get to http://twitter.com/account/notifications and set the @Replies as you want them.
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