Twitter and the Evolution of the Internet
When Twitter was first created many people couldn’t understand the point and proclaimed, Twitter sucks!. Many still don’t see the point of it. It’s ridiculed as lazy blogging, pointless drivel, a waste of time, and the end of the world as we know it. With things like potted plants and grocery stores tweeting, the derision of Twitter grows.
Many things that break new ground are often misunderstood or greeted with skepticism. Twitter has begun to evolve into a huge part of the web, and more and more people are using it for all kinds of things. The skeptics just haven’t found their niche yet, or are too stubborn to open their eyes and see what’s evolving. They’re distracted by the noise, spam and useless information; All common problems across the Internet. There have been polls that suggest 40% of all Twitter traffic is basically useless information. Is this out of character for the Internet? Look at all your emails for a day; how many of them are spam, newsletters you never read, and forwarded chain letters? Poke into any random forum post about any topic and you’ll likely find 40% of it is just reiterating what’s already said, unrelated tangents, and one line agreements with the the original post. If you just take a quick glance at a couple of twitter pages and don’t find the information to your liking doesn’t mean that there is no value there. Tweets are fleeting, and they reflect present time much more than they provide any archival value.
Even what’s deemed useless information or a waste of time might be helpful to someone. Maybe checking out what others are having for lunch will help you make your own decision about what to eat. Maybe you’re in a basement somewhere but noticing tweets from people you know are nearby about the crazy thunderstorm that just rolled in reminds you to bring an umbrella when you go out. Other people’s meaningless tweets could serve as restaurant reviews, traffic alerts, or a note about a nice sale at the mall. Twitter is by no means the be all and end all of social media. However it’s an important first step in what will eventually be one big integrated redevelopment of how we use the web.
Twitter reflects the stream of consciousness of the Internet, and sometimes the Internet contains noise, spam, and junk. There is also value if you know where to look. If you are tuned into Twitter, news will come to you without having to search it out. Once you build a solid group of followers with a diverse subset of interests stories and news and information that is actually pertinent to you will come across your Twitter screen. Instead of having to hunt down information, often when you don’t even know that something has happened, you check Twitter and everything is there for you. Rather than have to listen to news reports or radio stations, news and events that may be relevant to you or your day can be accessed via Twitter.
Twitter is just like what you would discuss at the water cooler in the office, except you’re discussing it with everyone, at every water cooler, at every office, in every part of the world. If a major sporting story, such as a no-hitter in baseball or a player getting traded, chances are you’ll first hear about it on Twitter. If a celebrity dies, a new movie trailer comes out, or a band adds a tour date to their schedule it makes it’s way around the world via Twitter and everyone that’s interested finds out about it. For those further interested, a simple search on Twitter will reveal all sorts of chatter and discussion around the topic. You can here anything anyone has to say about it, instantly. You’ll see statistics mentioned, highlight plays, discussion on the player’s attitude, and just about anything anyone has to say. On a broader scope, you could follow big events like the NFL draft, a presidential press conference, or the World Series of Poker as they are happening. This is what’s called trending topics, which are basically the hot news of the hour. If you search for these trends you’ll see a continually updated stream of people weighing in on the topic. Some of it will be from experts or authorities on the topic, and others will just be the thoughts and word of mouth of other people that are interested in what’s happening. Instead of tuning to a news channel or going to one news website, you’ll be tuned into the stream of consciousness from interested parties around the world. If someone 3000 miles away happens to hear a tidbit of information in his own corner of the world, he can instantly tweet that data and suddenly everyone knows it. This information gets propagated and retweeted throughout Twitter until the insight of one individual is carried across the globe.
From a marketing standpoint, Twitter can provide some instant feedback on your product. You can conduct surveys and interview people and find out what people are thinking, or you can type in your product’s name into Twitter and find out what people are saying. One quick search can tell you what people think about a new movie release, a new commercial, or a new piece of software. Faster than any RSS reader Twitter can alert followers to a new post on a blog.
Twitter is a part of the future of the Web. Even people that don’t tweet are affected by Twitter because it’s become a concept more than any one site. It’s about the propagation of information, and that propagation continues beyond the website when users repost what they’ve learned into IM away messages, email, IRC chat rooms, Facebook, or by word of mouth to the person sitting next to them. This concept has been there all along, and Twitter just streamlined it. As more and more people and companies start using Twitter it’s only going to continue to redefine how we use the web.