Scripting News for 7/27/07

Today’s links 

Photos from tonight’s TechCrunch party in Menlo Park.

Apparently some ISPs are inserting ads in web content as their customers surf.

Jason Calacanis: “It makes no sense to me to build inside of someone else’s platform when you have the wide open internet out there to develop on.”

Frank Zappa: “Gotta meet the Gurneys and a dozen gray attorneys.”

What Twitter is 

Congrats to the lead investors, Union Square Ventures and the angels, and the entrepreneurs.

I’ve been reading various posts and comments, and see a thread that’s still out there. People doubt that there’s a way to make money with Twitter. To that I say, they haven’t been reading this blog.

Now seems like a good time to pause and review what Twitter is.

1. It’s a network of users, with one kind of relationship: following. I can follow you, and you can follow me. Or I can follow you and you don’t follow me. Or you can follow me, and I don’t follow you. Or neither of us follow each other. Pretty simple. Just arrows at either or both ends of the line, or no line at all. There are no labels on the arcs.

2. It’s a micro-blogging system. Posts are limited to 140 characters. Enough for a bit of text and a link. This is a powerful idea, but not a new one. If you read Scripting News before February of this year, it was partially a micro-blogging system. When it started in April 1997, it was all micro-blogging. The earliest websites, from TBL, NCSA and Netscape were also micro-blogging systems.

An aside, I gave a talk on Sunday at the WordPress users conference. One of the things we talked about was micro-blogging. I asked the people if they would like it if the only way you could create a WordPress site was on They agreed that would not be good. Analogously, if micro-blogging is to become a real art, there will have to be many ways to create a micro-blog, and lots of RSS to tie them together.

3. A relatively open identity system. I’ve said it before, Twitter or something like it, could be the holy grail of open identity. While the engineers of the tech industry have been, imho, looking at the problem the wrong way by trying to glue together the huge namespaces controlled by powerful companies who don’t want to give up control. Twitter, with it’s ultra-thin user interface, and light feature set, and simple API (more on that in a bit) and the nothing-to-lose attitude of its management, may be the breakthrough. Or it could be Facebook, with it’s much larger user base and a management that also likes to roll the dice. The key is lots of users, a growing user base, and an API with no dead-ends.

4. An ecosystem. Twitter’s API is very simple. It covers the entire functionality, leaves nothing out. You could implement the Twitter user interface using the API. That’s a key thing. Compare it to Apple, who reserves for itself and a few partners, under terms we don’t know, the right to develop rich apps for the iPhone. Twitter takes the traditional PC industry approach, give everyone equal power, make it a level playing field and let the chips fall where they may. This means that if the people at Twitter miss an opportunity, the rest of us have a shot at providing it for ourselves and others.

So what do all these parts add up to? Users and relationships between users, their ideas, and an ecosystem. It’s probably the basis for some pretty hot apps. Will it be possible to monetize them? Without a doubt. People who say that Twitter hasn’t figured out how to make money don’t understand the role technology companies play in the much larger media and communication ecosystem. Ideas gestate here, grow up, find users, and then find customers. In a way Twitter is a mega-enterprise product, and by using it, we’re helping them prove it. Their customer is likely to be a telco or an entertainment network. But it’s way too early to cash it out, they all took the right approach, seed it with some more capital to add more bandwidth, solidify the back-end, add a bit more functionality, and wait to see what the users and developers do with it.

Twitter is still a very interesting service, and as long as it remains as open as it is, we can all learn from and alongside them.

4/28/07: Twitter as coral reef.

Harold Gilchrist: “Some actually see that Web/SMS Gateway as a key component of their architecture.”

Scoble is Twittering about Twitter from Twitter with Twitter.

2/22/00: “Watching them watch us watching them watching us watching them.”

4 responses to this post.

  1. Dave, I couldn’t agree more with you.

    I would also like to add that twitter is also a simple open message passing and routing sytem. It allows syncronous (SMS) and asyncronous (RSS) message passing between people or even applications.


  2. The analysis of Twitter through your blogging lense is interesting. It also would interesting to see a similiar analysis through someone’s SMS text messaging lense.

    >Posts are limited to 140 characters. Enough for a bit of text and a link. >This is a powerful idea, but not a new one.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I always thought the 140 character limit in Twiiter was based around Obvious designing the service around a Web/SMS Gateway and the SMS character limit.

    Some actually see that Web/SMS Gateway as a key component of their architecture and a distinction of their service versus some of the clones that have appeared after them.

    The 140 character limit relationship to a micro-blogging character limit seemed more of a accident or bonus then a design idea.

    I don’t even remember anyone talking much about the miracle of a micro-blogging post or talking about character limits for micro-blogging before Twitter came along.

    If you look at wikipedia, you will see the page on micro-blogging was not even created on until May 29th of this year, 3 months after the Twitter page was created.


  3. > It’s a network of users
    … Yes, just like every new social media application. So there aren’t labels on the arcs? This is a feature to be touted? There aren’t labels on the arcs of people in my email address book either. Nor on the people commenting on my blog. This is an uncompelling argument.

    > It’s a micro-blogging system.
    Micro-blogging is a niche area. The fact that you’ve been doing it here since 1997 does not validate it as a widely appealing concept. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that micro-chunking will achieve mass adoption.

    > open identity system
    It’s far from clear that the short form messaging trunk is really the right foundation upon which to build an identity system. I could be convinced however, if you care to elaborate.

    > An ecosystem
    Insofar as it exposes an API (just like so many other web services) yes. Not a key differentiator.

    So far, the kool-aid is unconvincing


  4. Posted by David Baker on July 28, 2007 at 5:37 am

    You limit your discussion of open identity system options to Twitter and Facebook. What about OpenID? Doesn’t that hold the most promise? Doesn’t that bypass the corporate grabs you mention? Twitter and FB could adopt OpenID and not lose any of the fundamentals of their value proposition.


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