May 13, 2009
Why is Twitter useful? Twitter is a service that encourages people to post messages to those people who value their contributions. Who values your contributions? Your family and friends. If you are celebrity, you have a number of fans that you don't know who value your contribution. Each person on Twitter has an incentive to post useful information in a usable way. If they do not post useful information, people will stop valuing their contributions. So we get a system of people providing useful information free of charge to anyone who follows them. Bam, instantly millions of people are talking publicly.
This is quite similar to MySpace or Facebook (except that facebook is completely private and myspace is partially private and a few other things). The issues with Facebook and MySpace is that it's design is different. Status messages on these services are practically useless and are not properly broadcast to people who care. Facebook has put a lot of work into changing that but instead they made it complex enough and the UI is poor enough to dissuade people from posting stuff like what they are doing after work. You don't want to discuss stuff with facebook's UI. Twitter is capable of merging the UI of an instant message client into a website that acts like a thousand chatrooms. But the awesome difference is that instead of ignoring all the idiots in a chatroom, you get to pick and choose who you actually want to listen to at your prerogative.
Businesses have finally taken technology seriously enough to make Twitter a priority in their PR or engineering departments (depending on which the business considers more capable of better communication for cheaper). So now consumers are getting a strange position in Twitter also, they are able to ask companies publicly about stuff and get the answer that the company considers publishable. Amazing, no? By not answering or answering with weasel words, they are telling all the customers who search for the same issue what they really think about it. No longer can huge companies hide behind a faceless support department.
And that took a lot more than 140 characters to say! (Which is why Twitter will never replace blogging thank goodness.)