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Can Twitter become ubiquitous?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 by Dave Winer.

A picture named egg.jpgFirst today's news: Twitter announced investments from Spark and Bezos. Bijan Sabet will become a Twitter board member. They haven't announced a business model, their approach is to get big and stable and figure it out later. Unlike some, I don't see any problem with this approach. Lots of companies have made their investors very happy (and users) with such an approach.  Permalink to this paragraph

Disclaimer: I have two friends on Twitter's board -- Sabet and Fred Wilson. Yet, I say exactly what I think about the company, as a user and a developer. I don't think Bijan or Fred would have it any other way. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

Mike Arrington: "If they can get the platform stable, I believe they will eventually become as ubiquitous as email, instant messaging, sms and other forms of communication." Permalink to this paragraph

This is an interesting idea that deserves serious discussion. Permalink to this paragraph

I agree that Twitter is that useful that it could become as ubuiquitous and valuable as email, IM and SMS. However, they have to become a fully open platform before that can happen. I don't believe it will become ubiquitous in its current form. The platform owner has too much power. And there are disturbing indications that it may take more power. The fact that they can do this unilaterally is the big limit on Twitter's growth. It will be hard for investors to risk on new ideas that build on Twitter knowing that the company can foreclose on them at any time.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named goose.jpg6/21/08: "I was forwarded an email yesterday posted by a Twitter employee to their developer mailing list that suggests that once Twitter is healthy the terms will change, requiring developers to get a license from the company to use data that previously was available without a license. This is exactly what developers hate, because Twitter gets to decide how much competition they want, they can reserve markets for themselves, even ones they're not serving. No one should have this power, it's not a healthy situation for anyone, not even Twitter, imho. Can't help but think they're killing the goose that laid the golden egg here. Also feels a bit screwy that we helped them build their network, for free (isn't it funny people only look at how they give stuff away) -- only to find that now they want to take back what was open about it." Permalink to this paragraph

It's actually worse than I said on Saturday. They can decide retroactively to take over markets that were once the province of developers. Now, that can't happen in email or IM -- there's no single vendor that has the power to destroy businesses without even launching a product. At this stage in the market development, that's too much power. Bijan and Fred, ask yourselves what guarantee you'd need from Twitter to feel comfortable investing in its aftermarket. I don't think you'd settle for anything less than complete freedom, upfront, before you invest a dime. 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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