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

Points of inflection.
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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?

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