Apr 28, 2009

Twitter: next step in social site evolution

by Ryan Mercer

2:46 a.m.: “3 years of wasted memories. how could she be so <3-less?”

1:29 p.m.: “ull nvr believe the bling I just got in my Cracker Jacks box.”

8:14 p.m.: “man I look good.”

Excerpts from Kanye West’s diary? Nah. Parts of a conversation with grandma? Not this time. This is a just quick glance of any given day’s Twitter updates. Twitter is the revolutionary new “killer app” on the Web. A “killer app” is an Internet application that is “innovative and often represent(s) the first of a new breed” and is “extremely successful,” according to pcmag.com.

So how does Twitter work? Think Facebook status updates meet text messages with lots of caffeine. Twitter is referred to as a “micro-blog.” Users are given the opportunity to share thoughts with followers in a 140-character allotment. It is not uncommon for active users to post multiple times throughout a day. Thomas Road Baptist Church’s own Jonathan Falwell (screenname: jonathanfalwell), posted 11 times this past Wednesday.

Tweets, the official name for Twitter posts, have been used for everything from basketball ticket offers from Shaquille O’Neal to marriage proposals. Even the government has gotten involved. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that he would be running for governor through Twitter, and the State Department just publicized that it would bring Twitter to Baghdad in an effort to boost the area’s technological repertoire. Most commonly, however, posts are updates for friends, family and followers.

So what makes Twitter different from the lengthy list of status updates you see whenever you log on to Facebook? The format is the same, the messages are identical, but the one key difference separating Twitter from the juggernauts of Internet applications is the addition or approval of friends. While it is true that not everyone who calls you a “friend” on Facebook actually know who you are, there is at least a small envelope of privacy. Twitter, on the other hand, is open to anyone. This makes it more of a newscast than a status update.

Twitter is where the world is headed. Information is more readily available now than ever. This reality rings true with each new Internet “hit.” Remember Xanga? A full-fledged blog for all of your close friends to read. Then we grew up and enlisted the help of buddy info from AIM. Next was MySpace, which made it much easier to hand out information to anyone who wanted a peek. Soon afterwards came Facebook, the bridge that took us to Twitter. Twitter isn’t exactly the “new Facebook,” but it has widened the lanes of the information age. In 2004, people could glance over a page of thoughts from close friends. In 2009, we can see what Britney Spears cooked for supper.

Facebook has already offered to buy Twitter, but apparently at the wrong price, according to media news blogger Kara Swisher. It will be interesting to see what happens as Facebook and Twitter battle it out for cyberspace supremacy.


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