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FAQ: Is decentralized Twitter just IRC?

Friday, January 18, 2008 by Dave Winer.

In the recent vigorous discussion about decentralizing Twitter, a frequently asked question was What's the diff betw that and IRC. Permalink to this paragraph

Now I could be missing something, if so, I apologize in advance, but I think the answer is No. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named elephant.gifSomething that's fascinating about Twitter is that everyone's experience is different. Some people subscribe to 100 people, others 5000, I've even seen people who follow 0 people. No one subscribes to exactly the same people you do. And just because you listen to someone doesn't mean they listen to you, and vice versa. There's a tremendous variety of different experiences. Yet each of us feels as if we're in a chatroom. That's the paradox of Twitter. It kind of feels like IRC while it is nothing like IRC. Permalink to this paragraph

What Twitter is most like, imho, is an RSS aggregator. The people who work on Twitter call it a micro-blogging system, because to them, that's what it's like, even if the users don't see it that way. I understand what they're saying, as I think through the possible ways to decentralize it, invariably I'm led down paths I've already walked in implementing blogging software and RSS software.  Permalink to this paragraph

But IRC is very symmetric -- if I listen to you, then you listen to me. And vice versa. There are ways to block someone in IRC, but it's an opt-out, where in Twitter listening to someone is by default off, and you have to opt-in. Very different experience. In IRC it would be considered a drastic measure to block someone. In Twitter, there's nothing offensive about not subscribing to someone.  Permalink to this paragraph

Further, you rarely see trolls or flaming in Twitter, because it doesn't work, just as it doesn't work in blogging. Unless you flame someone in an interesting or funny way, you're not going to get many followers. So guys like Loren Feldman, who is funny, gets a lot of followers on Twitter. And the normal grouchy and anonymous trolls who dominate mail lists rarely gain followers on Twitter (or blogs). Permalink to this paragraph

Twitter is fascinating, it's like the elephant and we're all blind men feeling our way around unaware that other people see it completely differently. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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Last update: 10/20/2008; 8:22:33 AM Pacific. "It's even worse than it appears."

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