Like It Or Not, Twitter Is Becoming Infrastructure

As usual, there were a large number of posts about Twitter this week. I am sure you already realized that I am going to add to this number as well. I have talked about Twitter as infrastructure before. I think it was fairly obvious with so many early adopters enamored with Twitter that it was going to be bigger than a normal startup. The important thing is that it sounds like Twitter itself feels the same way. In a quote from CNET, Jack Dorsey alluded to this:

“I think Twitter’s a success for us when people stop talking about it, when we stop doing these panels and people just use it as a utility, use it like electricity,” said Dorsey, who was on a “Future of Media” panel here Wednesday as part of Internet Week New York. “It fades into the background, something that’s just a part of communication. We put it on the same level as any communication device. So, e-mail, SMS, phone. That’s where we want to be.”

We already have a vibrant ecosystem of third party applications, but many of these applications were simple statistic trackers or other smaller features. However, the third party clients are taking on significant complexity with multiple account management, user lists and integrated searches. This is not something that is undertaken lightly. However, few people were able to make money due to Twitter. There are some reputation management tools that use Twitter as a data source, but typically it is only a portion of the overall solution. More recently, we have seen real-time search explode. However, search still has monetization problems outside of Google. In order for people to care about Twitter really becoming ubiquitous, more than some reputation management tools needs to be created. An application ecosystem is a very good thing for a system, but an entire economy is a different problem.

The Twitter economical benefits are starting to appear now. Fred Wilson has a post about how some companies are starting to use the data from Twitter for marketing and research:

While the data in and of itself is interesting, I am more intrigued by the idea that Twitter can be used as a panel that once it is large enough (and maybe it is already) that can produce much of the same data that is currently locked in set top boxes and controlled by the cable companies.

Analysis and market research is a big business. Even the major tech blogs, like ReadWriteWeb and GigaOm, are getting into publishing analysis and white papers. Brian Solis talks about the business aspects as well, referencing another research report, ThinkTank’s “Engaging Users”. There are two really good nuggets of information in Brian’s post. First, why are businesses starting to use Twitter:

The consensus defined engagement as a way to join the conversations that were transpiring around their brands – with or without them. The need to not “miss out” and also attempt to steer perception was critical and pervasive. For the majority, ROI would come later.

As with much in the marketing world, ROI can be difficult to measure, but the growth of the Twitter tools ecosystem will help generate those measurements. Another interesting point is a highlight from the research report:

Twitter users are super engaged consumers.

Twitter is still in an early adopter mode, though it is getting later in that cycle. Early adopters tend to be fanatical about things that they like. They are a huge segment of people that can be your free product evangilist. They talk about the products and tools that they use constantly. Some of these people have a significant reach compared to your typical consumer. Even someone like myself, and I do not have a huge social media presence, can talk to and possibly influence about five thousand people. I am just looking at the simple numbers, and not including the potential network effects. If I have two thousand subscribers on the blog, Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook, the number of unique people could be around 5000. That is direct contact, and the network effects could create an audience much larger.

So, why is marketing and economy so important to Twitter becoming infrastructure? Without an economy building on top of Twitter data and functionality, Twitter would just be a toy. With people researching the data that is generated from Twitter, it becomes much more important. In order to monetize the system, they can sell the data, but monetization becomes much easier when you become ubiquitous.

30 thoughts on “Like It Or Not, Twitter Is Becoming Infrastructure

  1. Twitter (and micro-blogging in general) has a chance to be a new type of collaboration infrastructure — whether that is the next generation replacement of IM, Email, etc. or a new additional communication format that gets blended into daily life.


  2. Shane

    I think it is becoming similar to email, a communication method that everyone has. The collaboration part will come from other tools built on top of things like it, like Google Wave and some of the more traditional wiki/collaboration software.


  3. Right on!
    Bringing monetization to twitter is a matter of capitalizing on real time search in the near term (ultra personalized ads), and in the long term is by setting up subscriptions to various filtered data.
    twitter came up a few times in my writing on social media in my recent (short) ebook (the second part is social media evolution). You may enjoy a read (there’s a link to it on my site, please feel free to pass it on to folks who also may enjoy it).


  4. Mark

    The filtering of data is a much harder problem, but will likely be solved by another third party application. I will definitely take a look at the ebook as well.


  5. The most important thing that is happening within this “infrastructure” is that has enabled two levels of engagement to emerge, one where the early adopter is working closely on making the killer tweet, and in turn getting TONS of followers, and the other level where serious developers and marketers work together to mine the potential data gold mine!

    Early adopters I believe are helping to hold up the structure, and it will most likely be long enough for developers who will create greater tools and solutions for marketers to utilize and exploit Twitter with!


  6. Yeah no easy task in connecting tweets to real information. Tags have made it easier in specific cases (conventions) but there’s still a disconnect between me typing my status update, and an automated system deriving semantic knowledge and suggesting appropriate products/services at a user controlled rate.

    If this divide can be crossed, twitter will have much greater financial potential than modern search advertising. I wouldn’t have to type in a search for something I didn’t know existed, my friendly customized update tracker would have a well timed and welcomed sales pitch based on my recent status history.


  7. Josh

    The cool part of this is that we really have only seen the “first generation” of these tools. Third party clients are a good start, but the next tools that do the mining, trending and summarization are where it gets very cool.


  8. You mention their is possible value in real time Twitter search ability in your article, but are you aware Twitter Search is broken for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of users ?

    For reference see:

    And now a list is beginning to form to determine just how many people are effected by this issue:

    It will be interesting to see the true scope of this problem, I have personally been affected for almost 2 months now. Imagine how much valuable information has been lost from search among the hundreds or thousands of real twitter users that are effected.


  9. UberDragon,

    I am very aware that search is somewhat broken right now. I am also assuming that they will be fixing this soon. The question is really when, and whether they can get truly stable.

    The other part is openness, which I did not address, but Jesse Stay ( did talk about that.


  10. […] Regular Geek posted an interview view on twitter – his main point: Twitter is shifting from an online service to a basic infrastructure upon which early adopters are constructing an eco-system: So, why is marketing and economy so important to Twitter becoming infrastructure? Without an economy building on top of Twitter data and functionality, Twitter would just be a toy. With people researching the data that is generated from Twitter, it becomes much more important. In order to monetize the system, they can sell the data, but monetization becomes much easier when you become ubiquitous. […]


  11. I’ve always been interested in learning who supports Twitter’s backend.. do they have internal IT resources or outsourced or hybrid of both? Anyone have any ideas on this?


  12. Robert,

    I believe they have internal support, but I am not entirely sure. You could always ask the team themselves.


  13. This is a great piece – it will be interesting to see what Twitter has evolved to in a few years. I also wonder how many people actual keep up with those they are following, and are therefore influenced by them, or if they just check in occasionally with their friends… The amount of updates can be overwhelming and I wonder how many people ‘tune out.’


  14. I keep thinking that Twitter as implemented now is an anti-pattern for the internet. That is, having a core method of communication that all goes through a central service is a bad thing. It’s as if all email were GMail and had to go through Google. That can’t last.


  15. Saying that twitter is an infraestructure is like saying msn is an infrastructure, nonsense. To understand the mining of infraestructure I recomend the book from Mr carr @IT doesnt matter.
    Examples of created infrastructures include: Telegraph, Train, Electric Light, Telephone, and so on. Infrastructures are not only software based.


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