Thoughtless Banter Musings from a software engineer.

Twitter Competing With Themselves

The Twitter service is agnostic to your special characters that we use as annotations to #topics and @people. The community came up with these “features” as a way to facilitate conversation on a service that was meant to broadcast our daily meanderings. One of the main reasons why Twitter took off was its easy to use, well documented, and public API that can be used to literally build a client out of any computer language that knew how to handle HTTP requests. The service boomed, but the problem is that Twitter’s gold standard client was now left in the dust because all of these brand new kids on the block were offering features that the community invented.

[caption id=”attachment_550” align=”alignleft” width=”500” caption=”Twitter web client as of November 2009”]Twitter web client as of November 2009[/caption]

So let’s fast forward to the current day. The Twitter web client now incorporates almost every single feature that you can find inside of a third-party client. Any username that is prefixed with an @ symbol is properly highlighted and linked, and #hashtags that convey an idea (subject matter about the tweet) are highlighted as well. These subjects, when clicked, take you to the Twitter search feature which show you all the tweets “related” to that subject matter.

Now obviously it is not perfect. If you take a look at the daily trending topics people will append tags to the end of their promotional tweets to get to the top of the search list. We have brought ourselves back into the days of high school where everyone wants to be the popular kid of the block, wearing the latest clothes, and listening to the new music.

The problem that Twitter is facing is that they are competing against themselves. Because they are allowing outside clients to literally do nearly anything they want their “market share” is being chewed up by application authors. Will Twitter be able to survive? Well, that’s precisely why we are seeing the addition of Twitter Lists and the infamous Retweet features to the web client. These are ways that Twitter is attempting to draw back people to using the web service. A couple of months ago Twitter even hired an ex-Google web designer to spruce of their web interface, and let me tell you something, it looks a hell of a lot better now!

While the community still invents clients and services around Twitter they need to figure out a way to make some cash. Eventually the guys with the money are going to start pounding on the tables wanting a pay out. I enjoy the interaction that I am able to get by using Twitter, but the business side of me keeps asking How are they going to make money? Every time that I look at Facebook I keep thinking that eventually my Facebook information kludge is going to eventually be rebranded to Twitter when they dump a boatload of cash on the venture capitalists laps. Although the way that the Internet works you’ll see a clone in the works as soon as news of that merger hits the pipes.