“I am not a tool” – Twitter’s inflection of web and society.

Points of inflection.
Image via Wikipedia

Update (090811-20:51ET): The end felt incomplete – some more detail added.

I’ve been getting some questions about how public micro-messaging is different than other social media. Why is it not just another tool?

While the flip answer of “well it’s public and micro and that’s the difference” is correct what is more elusive is how that is changing things – an inflection in the web – and society.

So let’s start with ‘micro’. Micro is about sms – the reach of sms means every mobile phone on the planet – or about 4 billion potential contributors. Being on a mobile phone also allows for real-time publishing from almost anywhere. Micro also makes it easy to publish – with the least time commitment or audience expectation of any form of publishing there is.

With public though we get to the real shift. When publishing a micro-message you’re publishing it to… well no-one and yet everyone as anyone can read it. This has been a big part of the rise of blogging effectively bridges the power of the web with the reach of mobile.

Together, these features then encourage a unique form of publishing that is:

  • spontaneous
  • interest-driven
  • succinct
  • frequent
  • anytime-anywhere.

As people publish through this medium they create an often uniquely authentic public expression of who they are, what they are doing and what they are interested in. To this we add the ability to reference another account, link, or topic in the public micro-message itself.

In the case of accounts, this allows for 1-1 conversation, in the case of topics it allows for many to many conversation, and in the case of links creates a dynamic layer of context around the link itself – a thread of free, interest driven public expression. In isolation these things are not so novel, but when we recognize them as a public collective we start seeing some new patterns emerging that point to a new use and form of the web.

These interconnected messages offer new interest-driven pathways for discovery that are constantly evolving. It’s a map of consciousness of sorts – based on spontaneous human interest. These pathways seamlessly weave between accounts, sites, and topics. While those new pathways are an easy invitation to get lost for some, they are definitely changing how public micro-messaging users experience the web. Some examples are:

  • primary source for notification of current events
  • primary source for new links of interest
  • channel for relevant new connections to people and initiatives
  • opportunities for new collaborations

Clearly this isn’t just a new tool.

It is instead:

  • a new multi-facted, layer of personal public expression
  • changing how we receive information
  • opening new pathways for discovery
  • lubricating trust and relationship

… which in turn is:

  • opening us up as individuals and society to the new and the now in ways we’ve never had
  • fostering new connections and collaboration
  • making the web more relevant to us than ever before.

And in the end it’s just  the most simple, human, public expression we have. Who would have thought there could be so much in so little?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The real-time web. Game on!

Popularized by Twitter, the public micro-messaging medium is leading to a major evolution of the web and society.

Twitter is just the beginning of this real-time internet – the simplest manifestation of this long term trend – that spells the end of communications and start of an interaction society. ~ Om Malik, What Twitter and Broadband Mean to Me.

The public micro-message medium represents the potential for a 4 billion person global message board, where anyone can share their interests, ideas, and actions real-time, and where every message can be seen, referenced, and responded to by anyone directly, person to person. This is nothing short of monumental.

What’s more is that people love it. It’s easy to do, nothing more than typing a short message, and can be done from anywhere via computer or mobile phone. This makes it real.

The result is streams of succinct, interest-driven messages that create relevant, real-time context around every account, topic, and object they reference… which effectively means anything and everything. With that comes an increasing expectation that the web will orient itself around each person, topic, or object based on it’s history and real-time context. Already for me, I  follow fewer blogs, spend less time in any single site, and instead find more of what’s interesting to me coming to me through real-time messages from the people and topical threads I follow. This reorientation is what is changing the web.

To me it’s clear that we are entering into the biggest transformation of the use and form of the web since it’s creation. This is not an incremental improvement but rather a fundamental evolution that requires a whole new set of applications, services and ways of interacting.

Cool.  So now what? For me, there are 2 things.  First, for the real-time web to reach its full potential we need a neutral, platform-independent application infrastructure and public dataset. Second, this will be the fastest evolution we’ve ever encountered and with that comes an unprecedented opportunity to seed a whole new wave game-changing ventures.

A neutral, platform-independent application infrastructure and public dataset.
Anyone who has built something on the Twitter API knows of the challenges and limitations. Processing real-time public micro-messaging data is a big challenge and one that is only going to get harder as more people and more services publish public micro-messages. This challenge could seriously stunt the growth of the real-time web and lead to a fractured future. What it calls for instead is a neutral, platform-independent foundation that hosts and provides the real-time dataset and a robust and reliable application infrastructure to build upon. Such an approach is also more compatible with the essence of the real-time web which is fundamentally a public resource created by people for public consumption. This is what we are working on through SVC.

Seeding a whole new wave of game-changing ventures.
It’s just beginning. Betaworks investments for example shape an early ecosystem of some of the most relevant ventures in this area and Collecta and maybe Ginx are two ventures that I think are getting right to the core of the real-time web. It’s also never been easier to launch a web service and with new application infrastructures it will only get easier. The key challenge, aside from the infrastructure issue, is being first to market  with applications that work with how the real-time web really works. I expect development, capital, and management talent are going to flock to the opportunity. Giving those resources a jump-start with proven prototypes of services that layer community and collaboration into the real-time web is a huge opportunity. This is what we’re working on through Shouldless Inc.

There’s never been a better time to start something and never been a better opportunity to change the game. Exciting times to say the least. Game on!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]