I love Twitter. I use it all day.
Right now, Twitter is even kind of hot, despite the fact that its founders seem to have no plan for it to actually make money.
In this video, however, Twitter founder Biz Stone (what a great name) hints that when Twitter becomes a “global utility,” money will arrive.
Which got me thinking, what kind of utility is Twitter, given that it is usually characterised as a micro-blogging platform.
After a couple of weeks thinking, I think I have an answer: Twitter is a Presence utility.
Presence is a pretty over-hyped concept. For anyone who’s not familiar with it, the basic concept of Presence is visible in Instant Messenger’s Status settings that let you be available to receive messages or not. Presence in these applications has a few levels: you can be there or not, or various degrees of not. You can set Presence manually or sometimes the computer interprets your behaviour and changes settings accordingly.
Presence is now busting out into the corporate world, where it is touted as a hot feature of VoIP systems as it allows workers to understand the status of their co-workers. The big benefit is supposed to be that you can see if someone is at their desk or on their mobile, rather than calling them and going into call-forwarding hell or voice mail. In practice, most people I know find that setting their presence to ‘Away’ is simply the best idea, because the presence settings are insufficiently granular to stop them getting calls in the car or some other place where they are not really ready to work or talk.
Which brings me back to Twitter, which I think offers very granular indications of Presence – if there is a social relationship in place!
I’m immodest enough to think that some of my own tweets illustrate how.
In this one I’m saying “I just read this and was offended by it, what do you think,” inviting conversation.
Here I am shouting out out to my friends.
A locative tweet, telling people where I am. The subtext is that as I am with kids, outdoors, I am less able to communicate.
I’m pissed off here and if you know the brand name mentioned, you can understand that I am doing my own tech support and therefore have little bandwidth.
This kind of information is far, far more than is ever revealed by other Presence-enabled applications I have encountered. I think it is therefore a more valuable form of Presence and therefore gives Twitter the chance of becoming a global social Presence utility.
Whether or not there is a buck in that, I have no idea. But as you’ll hear about ten minutes into this podcast, folks like Oracle already think that adding social information to CRM. That indicates to me that users are creating valuable information. Now to monetise it which, frankly, sounds like fun. If someone can pay me to Tweet, count me in!