James Mayes

Blog – Happy 5th birthday Twitter. What’s next?

In Social Media, Twitter on March 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

As you might have noticed, Twitter just turned five years old.  If you have children, this is often the point where they move away from kindergarten or pre-school and take some fairly serious steps. First proper school, potentially making the first friends that will stay with them for a lifetime. It’s also the time when children start to become more perceptive of others – embarrassment, a desire for recognition, the ability to communicate complex needs. As a tech start-up, Twitter’s obviously on a slightly faster curve – but I wonder how it’s going?

First up, let’s recognise an achievement: Twitter has changed the way millions of people communicate. Less than ten words – and a world of difference. Consider the way you use Twitter in business, the way you access your celebrity news, the way ordinary people can organise for mass events, the way we keep abreast of changing world news. Wow.

5th birthdayLet’s also consider relationships. One of the most fundamental aspects of development for young children is the ability to socialise. To understand their peers, to build a support network, to engage. Twitter recognised this from the outset and opened itself up via the API. This allowed external developers to build friends for Twitter to play with.  As of September 2010, Twitter acknowledged circa 300,000 third party applications. Ryan Sarver of Twitter recently put this figure at 750,000. That’s a big social circle – and one that’s growing fast!

Now comes a step change though.  In a recent post, Ryan also gave some indications of where Twitter expected these developers to focus in future.  For those considering the commercial requirements of a platform now valued in billions, much of this will have been no surprise.  Twitter would like third parties to focus on applications which leverage the platform and data, not simply provide an alternative interface.

Yet many developers feel betrayed by this.  After all, when Twitter was just a baby, they wrote all the wonderful interfaces which helped Twitter make so many friends (in the User space, 200 million) – now they’re told Twitter will be looking after that directly. How a user engages with Twitter is one of the key aspects Twitter needs to control in order to effectively monetise – but if you’re going to make friends for life, communicating such significant changes needs to be handled more carefully than simply a blog post in a Google Group.

What next? Well, Twitter wants to hit a billion users. Whilst there might be over a billion internet accounts worldwide, there are more than four billion mobile phones. Twitter have put some serious work into the richness of the on-line environment with both the web re-design and the clear assault on the smart-phone market – but never forget that Twitter can be used from an old-style mobile too. If Twitter wants to reach it’s goal, it might have lavish some love on these users too.

I’ve enjoyed writing this post – there’s more I want to look at in future, such as the @spam problem which seems to be escalating.  For now though, I’ll just say Happy Birthday Twitter – and leave you with the first ever Tweet, from co-founder and chairman, Jack Dorsey. As always, comments are unmoderated and appreciated!

First ever tweet

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