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A billion Twitters?

Friday, February 27, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A picture named chickenRoosting.gifIn 1995 I wrote a piece that envisioned billions of websites, one for every person on the Internet. At the time this was considered unlikely by most experts, they believed the web would evolve to become like TV, with three major networks, Yahoo, Lycos and Alta Vista. Google wasn't even born yet, yet many thought it was already over. Having been around the loop several times by then, I was sure the shakeout hadn't happened. Today I am confident that there will be thousands of Twitters, maybe millions. Just as in 1995, there are arguments that say this is wrong. "Everyone's on twitter.com," seems to be the main one, and it's a good argument. But let me argue with it. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

1. I was lucky when I was a kid, I grew up within walking distance of Shea Stadium in NYC. On summer afternoons I could go with a friend or my brother and sit in the grandstands for $1.65 and watch the best teams in baseball beat the Mets. Everyone went to Shea Stadium, it was the best place for baseball in Queens, but we also played baseball at the schoolyard down the street. They were different experiences, but both were baseball, and they co-existed perfectly, in fact you could say they helped each other. Other sports worked the same. Every playground had basketball, and you could also go to Madison Square Garden to watch the Knicks. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named sutton.jpg2. The fact that "Everyone's on twitter.com" in some ways works against twitter.com. It's become the honeypot for all kinds of crackpots and schemers. Some people are calling themselves Twitter Pros now. Social Media Marketing Experts. I got a reply from someone today thanking me for following them; I hadn't followed them. Everyone's getting huge numbers of DMs sent from robots representing people they don't know. They come to Twitter for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks.  Permalink to this paragraph

3. All Twitters will start at the same place with the same limits, but it will be hard to evolve the mother ship, so innovation will happen more quickly in the smaller communities. Leo Laporte has pioneered here with the TWiT Army community. There will be many others. I totally want to start one for scripting.com to serve as an adjunct to the discussions that take place in the comments on blog posts. This community loves change. A system with tens of millions of users will, necessarily, change much more slowly.  Permalink to this paragraph

Tomorrow there will be a open hackfest for Laconica, the open source software behind identi.ca and Leo's twitter, in Berkeley, starting at noon. I plan to be there for part of the day, to talk about how to get lots of these systems started in a variety of contexts. Permalink to this paragraph

Update: A random idea. Why shouldn't it be possible, using the FriendFeed API, to define a service that's a subset of what FF does, that more or less matches the (smaller) feature set of Twitter, and for a smaller community. 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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