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Feb 14, 2009

Understanding Twitter for Baby Boomer, Web 1.0 Users

Twitter has stormed to center stage. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook are all talking about Twitter.

What is it? Why has Twitter become ubiquitous?

What is Twitter?

Twitter is simple. Open an account. Log into your email account to connect with friends. It takes minutes.

Your profile immediately streams endless chatter from friends and casual acquaintences. Click on friends and friends of friends to follow more chatter. The more people you follow, the greater the number of messages.

One box lets you send messages. Messages are limited to 140 letters - short. Your message joins the endless chatter. 

Why Ubiquity?

With such a simple concept, how did Twitter become so pervasive?
  • First, Twitter serves millions of self-promoting artists, writers, politicians, consultants, pretty women, and enterprise brands. Many have tens of thousands of followers. Thus, they're motivated to continue the chatter - ten times per hour for many. Obama does not chatter, but leads the follower parade.
  • Unlike Facebook and Myspace, Twitter is an open, global chat room. Anyone can listen and broadcast to anyone else. Messages are not buried in forums, groups, rooms, or other confined spaces.
  • An open API appeals to millions of programmers. The simple interface allows access to any content, opening the doors to thousands of sites that make the chat stream relevant to their audience. In contrast, the Facebook, Google OpenSocial, and Myspace API have been mired in complex methods that restrict content access.
  • The 140 character message integrates the much larger mobile phone world with the web. Anyone can use SMS text messages to participate - not just smart phones like iPhone, but any basic cell phone.
  • Pundits call this microblogging. Does this replace blogging of longer messages? 
What's Next with Twitter?

In reality, Twitter is an open database. Each message is a free-form record, searchable and accessible with any program.

Unlike microformats, Google Base, and other complex structures, Twitter opens data sharing to one, huge database. It's easy to send data to Twitter. It's easy to extract the data for presentation and analysis.

As programmers work with Twitter, we've just begun to see the stream of innovation. See Media Life at http://media.tearn.com for one example - where we use Twitter as the comment system that is shared with Twitter users - globally. Comments return to Media Life, real-time, through the Twitter API. Incredible.

Will Twitter change chatting, blogging, and commenting? More importantly, do they become one global database? What do you think?

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