I'm winding up a west coast trip that took me to Portland and Seattle over the last week. Lots of interesting meetings, and along the way a number of developments that inspire new thinking.
I spent two days in Portland as the guest of Allen and Rebecca Wirfs-Brock. The purpose of the trip was to get me together with Ward Cunningham, the guy who invented the wiki. He has a fascinating story, and because he's not much of a writer himself, I'm not sure if it's been told. He and I think and work a lot alike, and have been working in parallel on flip sides of the same idea since the mid-90s, without ever meeting (indicating that there may be a conference missing in the tech world). We're already working on a couple of projects and thinking about a bunch more. The goal is to connect our work in interesting new ways. And since we both abhor lock-in, and love working with other developers, the connections will be open, and our products subject to replacement. That is one way new standards are developed.
One thing I came away with is a wish that I had made this trip, and met Ward, a long time ago. My life would have been vastly different, for the better.
On the train Thursday from Portland to Seattle, Twitter announced an end to the 140-char limit for DMs, and also announced that CEO Dick Costolo was stepping down, being replaced, at least in the interim, by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
I'm glad they got rid of the 140-char limit, at least in DMs.
I have had a chance to think, if I was the new czar of Twitter, what I would do, and it would be this. I'd list all the limits for users and devs, and one by one, erase them. I would move Twitter into position to be the ultimate open platform for realtime communication. I would make some unretractable commitments to developers, by releasing lots of the basic Twitter technology as open source, so it could be immediately federated. It might take some time to do it well, and we would take the necessary time. It would guarantee that we'd always have the highest performance, most reliable notification system, or we'd be replaced. Honestly, I'd bet that over time we would be replaced. But the Internet still needs an identity system. And for that, I'd charge users a small yearly fee to maintain an identity that could participate in the global network that Twitter would now define. That would cut back on a bunch of initiatives, so some of the current Twitter employees would go on to start new companies. I'd invest in them, so we could participate in their upside. This would prepare Twitter for mid-life. It's no longer a startup. And now it's time to serve as a true coral reef, as an operating environment, as an organization, and as a bank account. I know this is a radical re-shaping, and it may only be possible if Twitter is acquired, and basically taken private, and I wouldn't have a problem with that as long as one of the terms of the deal is that all this would happen. The idea is to get Twitter back on track to being globally significant. To realize the potential it had when it was a startup almost ten years ago.
If the acquirer were Google, btw, I'm pretty sure they'd be happy to go this route, because no matter what their future is tied directly to the future of the open web, and the open web is suffering because of all the silos. One of them is Twitter. Desiloizing Twitter would be a brilliant move, it would strengthen the open web, create vast new developer opportunities, and investment opportunities for the new owners. Google, of course, has much more cash than Twitter, and already realizes that it needs to diversify. Here's a great way to add fuel to the fire.
Of course no one is hiring me to run Twitter, so this is all a fancy dream. But it's fun to speculate!
One more idea then I have to go.
Yesterday I, and a bunch of other bloggers, got an email from Apple saying they wanted to use our RSS feeds in their new Apple News product. There were a few conditions, very reasonable, and an easy opt-out. I was very happy to see this, and glad to have this blog participate.
Earlier in the week when they announced Apple News, it appeared as if we would have to convert our feeds to conform to Apple's guidelines. I wasn't planning on doing that. But it's great that Apple is accepting RSS as-is, and making that support very public.
Now I think of people who thought there was no reason to have a blog and an RSS feed. To get this distribution, apparently, you need to be here. Apple just gave the open web a big boost. A big surprise, and much appreciated.