Yeah, I know that is a really sensationalist and possibly link-bait headline, but I am somewhat serious in my thinking. Twitter announced changes to their reply functionality, and the blogosphere went nuts. ReadWriteWeb has an interesting piece on the announcement, with their main concern being discovery:
While recommendations are interesting, I’d like to use my own judgment in deciding who’s interesting enough to follow. The people that individual friends of mine are conversing with is one of the best ways to do that.
Twitter has been doing more user interface work as well, presumably to try and make their web interface nicer for new users. I know the idea is to grow the user base and increase user retention, but what if they let their application ecosystem do that?
Here is my idea. Status updates will soon become part of the infrastructure of the internet. We had email become infrastructure a long time ago, and now it looks like the idea of status updates or microblogging will follow the same pattern. Why not focus on the infrastructure side? Ensure that you can continue to scale. Ensure that the API works well and maybe add some interesting features to that. Improve the search API as well, that way people can create interesting search applications on top of Twitter.
Granted, some people are likely asking “where is the business model?” I say it is in the infrastructure. If you become such a critical part of the infrastructure, you can basically hold the internet a hostage until they pay your ransom. Obviously, this could come in the form of dedicated servers for large companies and marketing the data that flows through their servers every day. There are other ways to make money at that point as well.
By ignoring the user, they will not be tempting fate by implementing something that one of the third party applications has already built. There are desktop applications which could easily be replaced, but why bother building one? They, meaning Twhirl and Tweetdeck, are doing a fine job on Twitter clients. We now have Twitter search applications popping up everywhere. We even have Tweetmeme for those people interested in the most popular links on Twitter.
So, why bother worrying about the user? Other applications are doing that for you. You have people like Shaq, Oprah and Ashton Kutcher doing all of your marketing. The only thing that is not covered is the infrastructure, and that is what actually matters most. So, focus on being the best provider of infrastructure we have ever seen.