I wrote yesterday's piece about Twitter very quickly, too quickly -- because I came up with a shitty title that didn't reflect how I was thinking about it.
We're in the phase of the tech loop where what matters is how impressive your latest press event was. To illustrate the effect of a great press event, look at this post by Scoble where he basically says Game Over, point-set-match to Facebook, checkmate, everyone go home, the fat lady has sung, etc etc.
The problem is that Scoble (who I love as a dear friend) will write the same freaking piece on May 20, when Google has had their press event, has shown all the great press releases they've written, and rolls out on stage a few tech rockstars, and probably one or two real rockstars, after all they go to Davos every year, just like Zuck. Google can hire the best PR consultants and Hollywood staging people just like anyone else. And guys like Scoble and Arrington and Steve Gillmor eat this shit up. They even have a name for this kind of vaporware -- Vendor Sports. God bless em. ">
The problem for Twitter is that they didn't have a great press event. Ev isn't very good with an audience, and they hired an academic guy to interview him, someone no one knew, and he apparently wasn't very good, so everyone came away totally unimpressed with Twitter's theatrics. What's needed is some good earth-shaking from or about Twitter.
It could be about Twitter. That's why I thought for a moment that Google might make an offer that Twitter can't refuse somewhere around May 10. The rumors start trickling out on May 11 or 12, and by May 19, every insider in Silicon Valley is sure that Biz and Ev are going to show up part of the Google team again and about $2 billion richer. Sure couldn't blame them for taking the money, just when the excitement about Twitter is waning.
There's one other thing Twitter could do, that would make a much better press release, because it would be the kind of press release that unlike Facebook's and unlike the one that Google is sure to run, has substance. That's what I wrote about yesterday.
That's a big idea. You can't argue that Facebook can't and won't match that. Can you imagine Zuck getting up on stage and saying "We decided to let you run your own Facebook on your server." I can't imagine it, anymore than I can imagine Bill Gates open sourcing Windows in 1992, at the peak of his power. Or Apple open sourcing the code that runs the iPad. Trusting the universe is something a disrupter does. It's why Android has a shot vs the iPhone. And it's why Twitter would do a lot to save itself from impending doom if they decided they didn't need to be exclusive with their users.
For the rest of us, this would be cool. We need Twitter itself do something to facilitate federation, otherwise it will be hard to prove that anything happened. (And yes, I know that most people won't want to run their own Twitter, we don't need a billion Twitters, but we do need more than one.)
I'm not saying they will actually do anything like this, there's almost no historic precedent for it. The only time I ever saw it work, and I didn't think it would work when it happened, is when Netscape open sourced Mozilla. But it did work. I'm using Firefox now, and so are a very significant number of other people. Chrome is open source and has a shot at the market largely because of what Netscape did. Their move took a while to be felt in the market, but it was felt.
Will Twitter do it? I don't think the founders are such daring thinkers as Marc Andreessen was back then. But there's always a chance. Even if they don't it's one of the things I enjoy, like playing chess, I suppose. Being an armchair general, hypothesizing about what I would do if I had the reigns of power, and wondering how they would work out.
I'd like to see Twitter trust the universe. Their business model would be as solid as Verisign's or WordPress's, plus they can run one of the instances, the largest one to start, and if they do it right, it will always be the largest. But the lack of competition in this space is what's keeping Twitter small, and staying small isn't going to work for them very much longer, imho.