I’ve been watching Twitter for quite some time now (haven’t we all?) and it’s become one of those movements that has a lot of potential, so we’re stuck waiting and watching, to see in which direction it will go. While most websites layer in new features on a rather consistent basis, Twitter hasn’t needed to do so, thanks to its API and a lot of addicted developers. The economy of Twitter has long been building up steam, and I have been waiting and watching to see how others will take advantage of it. With some of the recent applications that have launched, I’ve had a renewed opportunity to explore the Twitter economy, and thought I’d take a look back over the past year.
What initially sparked my interest was the way in which the Daily Woot began using Twitter to announce their regular specials on random items. It seemed like the perfect fit, and I imagined other businesses would find similar ways in which to integrate announcements to large sets of people for a direct economic gain.
That didn’t seem to gain traction on a larger scale, and applications that let you post images, tinyurls, and jargon translated into pirate talk began to emerge at lightening speed. None of them really took you outside of the central Twitter experience, but most seemed to work perfectly from third-party apps, such as Outlook or AIM. Very valuable for one’s own closed Twitter network, but with the growing number of social media sites that have integrated Twitter or Twitter-esqe concepts, as well as the growing number of sites that seek to aggregate and extract Twitter data for statistical or search purposes.
So in looking at popular parasitic networks that support a great deal of third-party services, there’s the obvious culprit in MySpace, and more recently Facebook. These both have avenues for allowing other services to leverage their user bases and draw them away from these respective social networks, if only for a short while. What I have yet to see is a comprehensive way in which the content coming from users has been leveraged for substantial purposes outside of the direct Twitter networks.
Perhaps I’m thinking about things in the wrong way–maybe Twitter doesn’t need to layer in more features (even in the face of multimedia competitors like Pownce and Tumblr), and even larger blogging platforms like WordPress, which has just released Prologue), and perhaps the best use of Twitter is its basic formation of streaming updates from a slew of people that can access its portal through various means (hence, the Twitter economy).
This coral reef of social networking doesn’t need to change, and the flurry of activity going on around it will enable Twitter to remain the same for some time to come. So what are the next steps for the Twitter economy? Should Twitter reach critical mass, there’s even more ways in which Twitter’s metadata can be used, more so than the applications we’re seeing now. For example, twit.io has started down this track with a classifieds-type system. What happens next is that twit.io and others like twemes manage to make Twitter hyperlocalized, allowing users to take Twitter content outside of the realm of an immediate network to gain from this massive cross-section of shared knowledge.
In the same way I wonder if Facebook status updates will ever become archived and searchable, I wonder how the Twitter economy will evolve as more rich applications integrate its service, and other applications build out the utility potential of the very concept of Twitter.