Twitter Is Not Broken, It Is Infrastructure

I figured the meme would return some day, and yesterday I found what I was looking for. Lorelle VanFossen saw a tweet from Robert Scoble announcing that Twitter is broken:

@loic: Twitter is broken and we all know it. But we muddle along anyway. Bring us better tools so we can view groups we care about.

Lorelle presents many of the standard arguments from the middle of 2008 regarding the various outage problems and other “brokeness” issues. However, Twitter has been very stable for the past few months. It has lasted through the election, the inauguration and various conferences in between. Why is Twitter broken now? The key is in the second half of Robert’s tweet, we need better tools so we can view groups we care about. Various tools have appeared, like Twhirl, Tweetdeck and others. Each provides their own twist on the Twitter experience. One question that people fail to ask is why do we need these tools? Twitter has not added any real features to their system and the team has been working on various backend features. One feature many people have been waiting for is XMPP, or the ever popular firehose.

If we are looking for better tools, then why do we care about things like XMPP? It is because Twitter is the new email. It has quickly become standard infrastructure for the way people quickly communication an idea or a thought. There are movements for a standard microblogging API so that various clients will talk to each other, but in order for that to succeed, Twitter needs to be the one to support it. Because Twitter is quickly gaining mainstream acceptance, they can drive what the infrastructure and communication requirements are.

Twitter is not broken, it is just basic infrastructure. There is one problem with this idea, Facebook. Because Facebook is starting to open up their status updates, they could define what the defacto standard should be. Facebook has not shown that they like playing by anyone else’s rules, so any microblogging API will need to support Facebook’s updates as well. If a standard microblogging API cannot be agreed upon, then we will be left with the same problems that instant messaging has. There are various clients, an accepted standard that only some support, and various services that only seem to talk to one another when there is some profit in it.

So, what needs to be done to get the microblogging API people in the same room as some of the Twitter and Facebook teams?

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3 thoughts on “Twitter Is Not Broken, It Is Infrastructure

  1. Interesting point Rob. It is clear that as long as Facebook plays the dominant role Twitter will have to abide by their rules. I totally agree on the microblogging API issue. FB is turning into some kind of monster that reminds me of Microsoft in that sense. I think too many people is adopting their model but I already find it too mellow. Why do we need Twitter? Good question. But why do we need Facebook either? I think Twitter has to make the right moves. As you say, they are just basic infrastructure or that’s the impression. The important thing here is the need for new ways of communication, the eagerness of the market for new and better products, the changes in social behavior and the ability of the company to understand that. Why do the rest need to be FB API compliant? Why if you come up with a good product need to spend money on that? We want integration, we want better tools, we want all-in-one stuff and fast but in the meantime a couple of companies dominate the market and strangle others’ initiatives. Among other things, that, should be changed.


  2. Carlos,

    The main idea with following the Facebook API is that they have the volume to become the defacto standard. That is why something like the microblogging API is so important, everyone else can band together and maybe facebook eventually supports it. Without a common API, the tools will suffer due to the custom coding needs of each service. I completely agree that this needs to change.


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