You know something is getting better recognized by the mainstream when it’s featured on the mainstream media. Twitter has recently been featured on the New York Times, in an article which focuses on how much growth and attention the microblogging service (if you would call it that) has had in the past few months.
Twitter was created by Obvious, founded by Evan Williams, also the person behind Pyra Labs (creator of Blogger, since acquired by Google) and the recently sold-off Odeo. Evan thinks it’s not so much the way Twitter lets people micro-blog that’s important. Rather, it’s in how Twitter gives its users different options in communicating and networking with each other.
“It’s understandable that you would look at someone’s twitter that you don’t know and wonder why it would be interesting,” he says. “And celebrity twitterers are really outliers, even though they get a lot of attention.”
Instead, Mr. Williams says, Twitter is best understood as a highly flexible messaging system that swiftly routes messages, composed on a variety of devices, to the people who have elected to receive them in the medium the recipients prefer. It is a technology that encourages a new mode of communication, he contends.
Personally, I fell I’m already hooked on Twitter. Sometimes it makes me unproductive (reading about what people are doing rather than actually doing work). Last time I tried installing add-ons to my personal blog, I tried the Twitter Tools plugin by alexking. This let me automatically publish a daily summary of tweets, a decision I have since come to regret, as several readers complained about not getting the same quality (???) writing as with my usual posts–most didn’t care what I was doing at 4 in the morning, or such trivial stuff. So I took it out.
Still, there are a lot of useful, creative, and productive ways persons or organizations can use Twitter. The NY Times article cites a few, such as for campaign purposes, and even to communicate with friends and family in what can be considered a public forum (akin to CB radio of the olden days). Some of my Twitter friends have been using their accounts as link blogs. Most, though, use it to chat.
As for the business model, Obvious is still pondering on how to monetize Twitter, if at all.
Mr. Williams, who is 34, doesn’t seem to understand such reservations. “People seem to like it,” he says, adding that he wants to expand Twitter as quickly as possible. He candidly acknowledges that he doesn’t know how Twitter will earn money — although he speculates that direct marketing on the network has commercial potential.
“It’s sort of a classic Internet thing, trying to make something popular,” he says. “I’m not terribly worried about the business, because I’m confident we can extract value, and I’m funding all of it right now.”
He can afford to do so. Mr. Williams is a serial entrepreneur who made his fortune by selling Pyra Labs, the creator of Blogger, a popular blog publishing tool, to Google in 2003.
There have been several suggestions and ideas, though (short of selling the whole thing itself, much like Blogger), like introducing the concept of premium accounts, selling enterprise services, and even merchandise.
Business model or no business model, one thing’s for sure–Twitter is on the rise. True, there are other similar services like Jaiku, MySay, Tumblr, and Meshly, among others–each with its own advantages, and each standing on its own as viable, useful services. But you know which is becoming gold standard when blogs are calling everything else Twitter alternatives.
Pretty soon, the dictionary will see a new verb addition. After “google,” “blog,” and other such web-related words that have come into recognition as verbs, next might be “twitter.”