Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Next Big Thing

What's Next?Image by Crystl via Flickr

On Sunday, I was interviewed by a reporter for the Phoenix New Times. I've done a fair share of interviews over the years, and you never know how the final piece will turn out. Sometimes the journalist has a slant, sometimes things get edited down to just sound bites, and sometimes quote are taken entirely out of context. All of that has happened to me in the past. But I don't sweat it. It is what it is. Not to say I think that the PNT piece will be anything other than spot on. I'm #justsayin'...

During the interview, the following question came up:

"What's going to replace Twitter".

I think that question has an unknowable answer. And not just because we can't predict the future. But because we don't know what we need -- yet. Before Twitter, none of us knew we needed an web/SMS/IM mashup that limited you to 140 characters.

Before Flickr, we assumed you had to know HTML and FTP in order to share your photos with family and friends.

Before Facebook, we didn't know that we needed private profiles, or that value was to be had allowing fellow students and co-workers access to said profiles.

Before YouTube, we didn't know we could create mini-movies and get them to our friends with ease and speed, so they could spread them around for us.

So the question of what's going to replace Twitter is as silly as it is unknowable. I use all of the networks above. Neither one replaces the other. Sure, I could use Photobucket, MySpace, Vimeo, or Dodgeball, but I don't. Yet plenty do. They don't need to switch to my tools, and I don't need to switch to theirs. They get the same benefits I get with my preferred tools.

So don't try and build a "twitter killer". Try and build something entirely new that lets me do things my current toolbox won't. That's going to be The Next Big Thing.

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  1. I was just discussing at Dave Winer's RSS Cloud roadshow last week when we were discussing the 140 character loosely coupled network. I said then that "twitter today is AOL and CompuServe in 1992" and I stand by that. Let me explain...

    Back in the early 90's there were a number of competing networks floating around AOL, CompuServe, MSN, GEnie, Prodigy, etc. Like twitter today the solutions were rather closed, and didn't interoperate with each other. An AOL user couldn't send an email to someone on GEnie, participate in CIS's CB or take part in a message area on Prodigy. Over the next couple of years companies moved their support to either newsgroups or web based forums, people abandoned CB for IRC on the internet and email in these services because gateways to traditional internet mail. This is (slowly) happening in the IM space now as jabber (and gtalk) has been interoperating with a number of different services.

    There have been a few attempts to build a twitter killer, and they've failed, bigger is not the solution. I think that a small network of servers based on RSS Cloud will show up (probably an identica implementation) and interoperate. It will be initially small and rag tag much like the net in 92... mostly tech heads and we won't be abandoning twitter while we play in that space. Once this starts happening there will be pressure on twitter to interoperate with this network but they will refuse as their business model depends on them owning the data and parsing it out.

    Eventually a movie studio or celeb, maybe @AplusK, will say "wait, I can run my own server, own my network, run advertising and build my brand instead of twitter's and I have enough pull that I can pull some my fans with me". Much like email before it twitter will eventually break down the wall and federate with the outside network.

    At the end of the day closed systems are proof of concept for the 'net once they become popular we route around them they have to open or perish.

    And now that I'm thinking about this.. I reserve the right to use this comment in a blog post.

  2. I'm pretty sure you *made* a blog post in that comment, Nibbler. :)


  3. Hopefully you don't want to start using Dodgeball because Google discontinued it about 6 months ago... 0_o

  4. You're right, CM. I heard that was happening. Truth be told, I was lazy with the post. :)


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