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Category Archives: twitter

Last year Facebook released Facebook Connect and about the same time Google released Friend Connect, they’re two very similar services that allow users to connect with information and with their friends of the respective native platforms from third-party enabled sites. The intention, as I’ve written about before, is to add a layer of social interaction to ‘non-social’ sites, to connect your information and activity on these third-party sites to your information and activity (and contacts) on the original platforms.

Then in March, Yahoo! announced their service sign-on, called Yahoo! Updates.

Now, this week, Twitter have announced their connection service, called ‘Sign in with Twitter‘. It too gives you a secure authenticated access to your information and contacts, in exactly the same way the others do – except this time, it’s Twitter.

Sign in with Twitter

You might ask if we have three, do we need a fourth? Have you ever used any of the other three?

But don’t dismiss it, or think it Twitter are jumping on to any kind of bandwagon, Twitter’s implementation is fundamentally different to the others – and it could cause quite a stir.

The problem with the other services (ultimately the problem with the platforms) is, more than often not, they are completely closed and non-portable. Although you can sign-in to a third-party site and access your data, there’s a lot of limitation to what you can retrieve and publish. These popular social networks have grown and amassed huge amounts of members and data which they horde and keep to themselves. I’m not talking about privacy, I’m referring to data portability.

The infrastructures are like locked-in silos of information and each built differently, because, either, they never considered that you’d want to make your data portable or they didn’t then want (or see value) in you moving your data anywhere else. The services they’ve created to ‘connect’ to your data are also proprietary methods – custom built to channel in and out of those silos. Each of those services too, are singularities, they won’t work with each other.

Twitter though, have come up with a solution that adheres to agreed upon standards, specifically, by using OAuth to facilitate it’s connection. Technically, it’s significantly different, but in practice, you can expect it to do everything the others can do.

The community’s thoughts

Yahoo’s Eran Hammer-Lahav (a frequent contributor to OAuth) has written a good post discussing his thoughts, he says it’s ‘Open done right’ – no proprietary ‘special sauce’ clouds interoperability as happens with Facebook Connect. I think he’s right.

He looks at what happened when Facebook Connect was introduced, that they essentially offered third-party sites two key features: the ability to use existing Facebook accounts for their own needs, and access Facebook social data to enhance the site. The value of Facebook Connect is to save sites the need to build their own social layer. Twitter though, is not about yet another layer, but doing more with that you’ve already got.

Marshall Kirkpatrick also wrote about the announcement, his metaphor for the other ‘connection’ services best describes how they function – ‘it’s letting sites borrow the data – not setting data free’.

But then he talks about Twitter ‘as a platform’, and I think this is where things get interesting. He says:

Twitter is a fundamentally different beast.

All social networking services these days want to be “a platform” – but it’s really true for Twitter. From desktop apps to social connection analysis programs, to services that will Twitter through your account when a baby monitoring garment feels a kick in utero – there’s countless technologies being built on top of Twitter.”

He’s right. Twitter apps do pretty much anything and everything you can think of on top of Twitter, not just the primary use of sending and receiving tweets. I love all the OAuth and open standards adoption – but that’s because I’m a developer, but thinking about Twitter as a platform makes me wonder what kind of effect this will have on the users, how it could effect the climate, even landcape, of social media if, already being great, Twitter is given some real power

People have long questioned Twitter’s future – it’s business model, how it can be monetised, those things are important – but where can it otherwise go and how can it expand? Does it need to ‘expand’? It’s service is great it doesn’t need to start spouting needless extras and I don’t think it will. But in widening it’s connectivity, it’s adaptability, I think could change our perception of Twitter – it’s longevity and road map, the way we use it and think of ourselves using it.

My Thoughts

Irrelevant of Richard Madeley or Oprah Winfrey’s evangelism, Twitter is an undeniable success.

When Facebook reworked and redesigned their feed and messaging model, I almost couldn’t believe it. What was the ‘status’ updates, basically IS Twitter now, and that’s it’s backbone. It’s Twitter’s messaging model, it asks ‘What’s on your mind?’.

I’m probably not the only one who thought this, I’d guess any complaints about this being a bit of a blatant rip-off were bogged down by all the negativity about the interface redesign.

I think Facebook realised that Twitter has become a real rival. I think (and I guess Facebook also think) that as people become more web-savvy and literate to these sociable websites, they want to cleanse.

The great appeal of Twitter for me was, ingeniously, they took a tiny part of Facebook (this is how I saw it two years ago anyway) and made it their complete function – simple, short updates. Snippets of personal insight or creative wisdom, it didn’t matter really, what was important was it ignored the fuss and noise of whatever else Facebook had flying around it’s own ecology (and this was before Facebook applications came around) and took a bold single straight route through the middle of it.

Looking back, a lot of Facebook’s early adoption could be attributed to people growing restless with the noise and fuss of MySpace at the time – Facebook then was a clean and more structured an option.

I remember Twitter was almost ridiculed for basing it’s whole premise on such a minute part of Facebook’s huge machine. Now look at the turnaround.

Now people are growing up out of Web 2.0 craze. A lot went on, there was a lot of ‘buzz’, but a lot of progress was made in connecting things. People now are far more connected, but perhaps they’re over-connected, struggling from what Joseph Smarr calls ‘social media fatigue’. People they have multiple accounts in a ton of dispersed and unconnected sites around the web – true, each unique and successful for it’s own achievements – but it can’t go on.

Twitter for me is streamlined, cleansed, publishing. Whether talking about what I’m doing or finding out information from people or about topics that I follow, the 140 character limit constrains these utterances to be concise and straight-to-the-point pieces of information. The ‘@’ replies and hashtags are brilliant mechanisms conceived to create connections between people and objects where there is almost no space to do so.

I use my blog to write longer discourse, I use my Twitter to link to it. Likewise with the music I listen to, I can tweet Spotify URIs. I link to Last.fm events and anything particularly good I’ve found (and probably bookmarked with Delicious) I’ll tweet that out too.

Twitter for me is like a central nervous system for my online activities. I won’t say ‘backbone’ – because it’s not that heavy. Specifically a nervous system in the way it intricately connects my online life, spindling and extending out links, almost to itself be like a lifestream in micro.

Recently, I saw Dave Winer‘s ‘Continuous Bootstrap‘ which although is admittedly a bit of fun, describes the succession of platforms deemed social media ‘leaders’ (see the full post here).

What I initially noticed is that he aligns successful platforms – blogging, podcasting – with a single application: Twitter. It doesn’t matter whether he is actually suggesting that Twitter alone is as successful as any single publishing form, but it did make me wonder if Twitter, rather than being the current ‘holder of the baton’, will actually be the spawn for whatever kind of Web-wide platform does become popular next.

If the real Data Portability revolution is going to kick in, if it’s on the cusp of starting right now and everything will truly become networked and connected – would you rather it was your Twitter connections and voice that formed that basis for you or your Facebook profile?

I know I’d much rather read explore the connections I’ve made through Twitter. The kind of information I’d get back from the type of people who’d connect in this way would be far more relevant from my pool of Twitter connections rather than the old school friends and family members (notoriously) who’ve added me on Facebook, the kind that just add you for the sake of it.

If Web 3.0 (or whatever you want to call it) is coming soon, I’d rather detox. Twitter is slimmer and still feels fresh to start it out with. For me, Facebook feels far too heavy now, out of date and messy. Maybe I’m being unfair and I feel that way because I’ve fallen out of touch with it and now I visit less frequently, but all the negativity hasn’t done it any favours – and those complaints aren’t unfounded.

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The other day I wrote about Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect – two recently launched, very similar services going head-to-head in the ambitious self-proclaimed aim of ‘opening up’ the social web.

But if these platforms are successful, what will that actually be like? The demo sites Google provides are good for functional demonstrations but little else. There’s a complete list of sites that use Facebook Connect up on their dev wiki – there’s Joost, Netvibes and TechCrunch, but no-one with such a diverse and active user base like Twitter.

Then on Monday came on the news that Twitter chose to Connect with Google’s service. It’s strange that there wasn’t more made of the announcement, considering what could come of it.

Twitter hardly said much about it at all on their blog, Google covered it in more depth but also provided the first real recognisable use case for an integrated site. Now whenever you join a ‘Friend Connected’ site, you can use your Twitter profile to join their service. From there, you can see of a combination of your followers and those who you follow that are already on the site and connect with them there too. You can tweet about your find from the connected website’s portal.

Getting a big site like Twitter on board will really kick Friend Connect up a gear, undoubtedly it’ll receive a massive increase in attention. But it’s not like Facebook Connect is by any means down or out – it’s so early. If anything, the introduction of these services to such widely used web apps as an almost unblinkingly ‘standard’ feature (this will eventually boil down to a simple ‘Connect’ button) could positively change users’ perceptions of them to being just commonplace. I’m sure that’s the ultimate intention, but right now it’ll work in favour for any such service, be it Facebook Connect or any other.

It’ll be a while before we see any real difference in the reception or growth of implementation for either service, whether by then we have a preferred leader or not.

I’m interested to see how Facebook will respond in aiming to get as big a site as Twitter integrated with Connect. Prior to the Twitter inclusion, I felt that Google’s Friend Connect came across almost like a developer’s toolkit – like a set of ready-made widgets to enhance onto your site, boosted by the capability to network centrally. But now I’ve seen it in action, Facebook have a undeniable rival product.

It should be said of course that Twitter hasn’t really chosen Google over Facebook. Biz Stone wrote that there was hardly any effort required on Twitter’s part – Google maybe just got in there first.

It’s in the same post he goes on to say that Facebook Connect integration is already in development. Twitter officially announced integration with MySpace and the Data Availability initiative seven months ago – they’re embracing everything they can, good on ’em.

Note: this is a response to my previous article, It’s Oh So Quiet.

In my last post I wrote about my disappointment with Twitter’s cancellation of outgoing SMS updates. I received a comment from my brother, raising an interesting question:

Some good points, bro.

What I can’t understand is why the major networks haven’t started a joint initiative that allows broadcast conversations like Twitter had over SMS. Users could send broadcast texts for the price of a single text (given that it must cost the network the tiniest fraction of 10p to send a message) to a group of up to their friends. I reckon it’d be a good way to increase SMS usage.

I suppose the reason they haven’t is that all of this will be changing over the next few years as people email better integrated into their phones. With the mobile phone networks just be happy to take money for data usage instead of SMS.

I must say I agree, the migration of voice calls to VoIP too, is as (if not more) inevitable in the long run as mobile phones become even more seamlessly integrated as ubiquitous computers.

But a ReadWriteWeb article today about the launch of another new ‘pay-to-tweet’ service from 3jam, suggests possibly the best solution to fill the Twitter SMS-void, they believe, because they already offer a service that does almost exactly that.

‘Supertext’ is group text messaging from the web on an credited account basis. But as Sarah Perez points out, 3jam already operate on a large scale and with huge volumes of SMS, so surely they should be in a great place to to negotiate a good, i.e. cheap, deal.

Could it be so ‘good’ that it’s worth paying for a previously free service? Maybe. As she asks, is there enough worldwide demand for Twitter via SMS for any of these pay-for-Twitter services to make it?

Pretty gutted about Twitter’s changes to their SMS service. They’re no longer delivering outbound SMS over their UK number, so although UK users can still use it to update, they will no longer receive remote device notifications.

When Twitter introduced a limit of 250 international device updates per month last November, I could deal with it – I myself not afflicted with what Mike Butcher diagnoses as ‘Twitarrhoea’ – and could see the reasoning. Twitter support concedes the issue to expense and cost effectiveness, presumably the volume of international traffic can still be handled stably, I guess they just can’t strike the right deal with UK providers. Michael Arrington reports that cost to be $1,000 per UK user, per year – a staggering figure.

But Butcher also questions two interesting outcomes. Whether:

“UK users may start unsubscribing from people who tweet incessantly.”
“Or they will cut down the number of Twitterers they follow.”

Whilst I find the first almost motivating, that a community moves to prune and better itself, solving to enrich a collective exchange, the latter troubles me – that an established, relied on service (albeit reluctantly) makes changes to their business model, directly effecting, by way of forced change, our social behaviour online – clipping our activity and way of interaction.

I’d be interested to see how, or even whether, the behaviour of Twitter users and usage changes with geo-location. I am part of a community of Twitterers of around 15 who each closely follow and are followed by each other, internally. We’re very aware that we believe our use of Twitter to be quite different from most others – or at least it was in the very beginning when we first joined. For us, far from a micro-blogging platform, it is a mechanism almost purely for group social communication. Although due to our careers, sparks of debate are often tech-centered – it’s by and large far more recreational than at all serious.

I’m not alone in expressing my feelings, and it’s not pretty. Hopefully the effects of this change will be prolonged and result in either a celebrated reversion or at least some kind of solution – like the Facebook group earnestly campaigning to cut Twitter a decent deal, rather than opportunists gaining from the downtime.