Twitter is facing a lot of scrutiny by the business press this week, its founding myth has been called deeply into question (news: not founded by angels) and its management characterized as dysfunctional and ineffective.
Yet the Tweets keep flowing, the lists listing, the replies replying. No one has Direct Messaged me yet this morning but I'm sure that still works too. All this business scrutiny makes me want to pause and be thankful for Twitter's best assets - simple technologies too often unappreciated by a media world too accustomed to its own power to feel moved by the growing communication power users derive from Twitter. Do users care about drama in the executive suite at Twitter? Not as long as the tech fundamentals remain functional, they don't. What are Twitter's most important assets? As a dedicated user of the service, I see three.
Easy Publishing, Easy Access to Fascinating People
Core to the nature of Twitter is that it enables people to both speak and listen easier than ever before. How many technologies throughout history could that be said about? Maybe you're just speaking and listening to your family and close friends on Twitter (that's what the company thought at first would be the primary use case) or maybe you're using Twitter to speak and listen to fascinating people whose everyday thoughts you wouldn't have access to otherwise. Celebrities, executives, fascinating people in far away places. That's what the company is focused on emphasizing now and it's a powerful model.
TV stars Tweet live on TV and anyone can read those thoughts, in real time. Athletes can publish unfiltered commentary about their games. It's like being at a round-the-clock cocktail party with my local newspaper's neighborhood reporter, the lead geotechnology developer advocate at Google and a guy who writes for the TV show Weeds. How awesome is that? Very awesome.
Some things can happen when 2 or 3 people connect, but there are fundamentally new things made possible by the networking of millions of interconnected people around the world. Just one of those things is that the speed news travels at is greatly increased. Twitter is where you hear about things first - and then you pass them on. The importance of that is hard to communicate clearly, but it's also hard to overestimate.
Clean URL Structure & Public Data
Why have a giant networked conversation with fascinating people if you can't look at it from a bird's eye view? Twitter's data is almost as interconnected and accessible as its users are. Look at a Twitter profile. Almost any field on that page can be drilled-down through and cross referenced with other data. Identity, two-way social connections, interests, location and time are all pumping through the Tweets, rich with potential.
Someday our use of electricity, our driving patterns down the street, our sleep patterns and the food we eat will all be instrumented - quantified for tracking, analysis and development on top of. So too will be our conversations in the public square - which is what Twitter is.
That's something that's possible because of Twitter's structure and open data. That's powerful business potential - real time delivery of unmediated, actionable information in a semi-structured format. Hot! If you're not excited about that, then you may be caught by surprise by the future and find yourself already a step behind.
Those are the kinds of assets I think are Twitter's finest. There may be drama in the executive suite, but in as much as it doesn't spill over into spoiling some of the above (and granted, it could) then I'm not sure I or millions of other people care.