Twitter Co-Opted by Users as Better SMS, Social Media Platform

Twitter has gotten a lot of mixed attention lately, both as a rising phenomenon but also for failing to fix its capacity issues as quickly as people seem to expect. The issue at hand, as expressed by Twitter Dev, is that the platform was not originally written as a messaging system. Indeed, it was built on a content management model.

Recall that Twitter was originally about posting what you are doing at the moment. As such, it was essentially constructed as a public microblog that happened to include mobile support. But very quickly the Twitter user community realized the power of broadcasting and co-opted this feature to grow a very large social netwoork. Twitter became an extension of sms and all of the new API clients that started popping up.

Now with almost 2 million users, many of whom are tweeting multiple times a day, the content management system is maxxing out. Imagine if 2 million people were posting 160-char messages to Blogger daily… Frankly, it’s amazing that Twitter is doing as well as it is. So now the Twitter dev team is rebuilding every component from scratch to explicitly construct a robust global messaging system.

What’s really interesting is that the Twitter community has effectively turned Twitter into something it wasn’t intended to be. The desire to rapidly communicate with affiliates across the globe is so strong, and the power of broadcast is so compelling in the web2.0 era, that the very DNA of Twitter is being forced to mutate to support this demand. The spark of “what am I doing right now?” set flame to social media and the connection of communities. We want to know what’s going on with all the people we’re interested in. We want to know them professionally, philosophically, and personally. And we want to speak our mind and emotions and will to them.

I’m constantly taken by the casual intimacy of Twitter friends – people I’ve never met yet I know that they had a rough interview, or their cats are hungry, or they are giving a lecture tomorrow, or just saw a crazy person dancing on Wall St., or that they think Indiana Jones represents the Marxian class struggle. Normally you only get this spread of data about someone if you’re close friends and physically near them on a regular basis.

We want to socialize and share and we have an instinctual feeling, waking up from the haze of 50 years of corporate push-media, that life itself in all it’s minutia is far more entertaining than anything Fox or NBC can throw at us. Or at least, it’s just as entertaining and engaging and, at it’s core, so much more real. The simulacrum cannot mess with us, ala Real World where we were sold scripted caricatures in the guise of “reality”. Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Blogger, etc… These are the new reality media platforms and we’re all the new empowered content creators, scripted or real. Culture is going digital and the once-static web archive is waking up as a dynamic organism managing and sharing the very whims of it’s creators.

Through this process we’re getting to know each other and ourselves and our world very quickly as knowledge is distributed globally and minds are linked across worlds with zero lag. Culture is iterating faster than ever and we’re only at the very beginning of what is clearly becoming a huge revolution for all of humanity, whether or not each person is immediately touched by the wires. Life is virtualizing and the abstracted mental content of our world is increasingly archived and shared and commented upon and iterated on itself from all across the world. The power and reach of our minds is expanding out through our devices and the exocortical software agents we now have managing so many of our subroutines. We are cyber even without the implants and wetware. The individual is wiring into groups, like cells aggregating into functional bodies, towards greater communicative and iterative power.

The human species is beginning to truly know itself and grok it’s identity and function. As our eyes open up to perceive more and more of our world, we gaze at our creations and atrocities and the spark of soul sits in judgment, our conscience asserting itself. The democratization of media and the transparency of behavior is fundamentally altering the power balance away from the dominant elite towards the will of the people. In a very strange and sweet way, Twitter is part of this process of sharing and reinforcing the similarities between us all.


  1. Ian Kath

    With the whole new method of communication that is Internet 2.0 we’re seeing the means and methods of conversation starting to change.
    Twitter in particular has a unique place in that it’s like a chat we have in a pub or party. The way a tribe may communicate sitting around a campfire on the plains of Africa.
    When the conversation had too many people the tribe would break away and the conversation would start again with the more comfortable group size. Growing and fracturing to create the world of tribes, kingdoms and nations.
    Twitter has the power to bring the conversation back to the campfire, intimate, personal and instant but without the restrictions of size. The technology has the power to fix that.
    Let the revolution continue. :)

  2. Thirtyseven

    “Frankly, it’s amazing that Twitter is doing as well as it is.”

    AMEN. There’s a puzzling tide of whining entitlement, generally from people with no concept of how much logistics are involved with keeping a global conversation running. Hopefully repeated Twitter brownouts will be a catalyst for these folks to look into the details and gain some appreciation for the nuts and bolts.

  3. admin

    yeah, Ian, it’s an interesting extension of the commons… an un-place that’s everywhere.

    i expect to see micro-twitters spinning off (or licensed by Twitter?) that can be deployed & secured by in-groups for specific purposes (corps, projects, focused discussions, etc). I’m curious how the medium could be used as a general comm channel around specializations. In the meantime it’s a fun place to hang out in and broadcast to the world.

    Re: surveillance… I fully expect that in 10-15yrs political candidates will have their long-forgotten tweets spread across the front page.


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