Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

The "Experiential Gap" . . . and the Growing Cosmos of Twitter Applications

Posted by Tom Foremski - September 17, 2008

A description of Twitter: being able to send a text message of no more than 140 characters to a self-selected group of subscribers via a cell phone or computer.

That doesn't seem very exciting. Yet there continues to be a lot of chatter about Twitter and it is well deserved because this simple application has become tremendously useful to growing numbers of people.

But communicating why Twitter is so interesting is one that cannot be conveyed unless you are in it. This is one of the hallmarks of many important applications such as blogging, Facebook, etc. You can't and won't be able "get it" unless you are in it.

We have moved beyond "generation gap" differences in technology use and moved into the "experiential gap" in terms of use and understanding. Your experience with an application such as Twitter provides an understanding that cannot be communicated by reading about it or even being told about it.

Twitter is simple--another hallmark of powerful applications. Blogging is simple. RSS is simple. These are all important technologies that characterize this second major phase of the Internet--but you wouldn't know that unless you use them, unless you are involved with them.

Twitter has spawned a growing number of applications that sit on top of this simple platform and extend its usefulness. Twhirl is one of those Twitter applications--it helps organize your "tweets" with a simple user interface. Twhirl was acquired earlier this year by Seesmic, the "video conversation" site.

I've been using Twhirl but recently shifted to TweetDeck, which does a much better job of presenting "tweets" than Twhirl. (Look for some interesting acquisition news on TweetDeck very soon.)

And we will certainly see more and more applications built on top of Twitter and also Twitter-like applications. Yammer is one of those, which recently won the TC50 competition (to howls of fix).

What will be interesting is how Twitter will survive. It hasn't yet figured out a business model and its infrastructure is weak and doesn't appear to be very scalable.

No matter, if Twitter doesn't make it long term the concept will certainly survive and others will provide the platform. And someone will likely eventually roll up all the Twitter apps, or at least their functionality, and own the entire stack--maybe that will be Twitter.

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