Once Upon a Twitter

At SXSW in 2010 Umair Haque interviewed (former) Twitter CEO Evan Williams.  Among other things, the two talked about Twitter’s future and what might be the most useful and important applications of Twitter’s technology.  Despite the profound awkwardness of Hague’s interview, some interesting content did come out of the discussion.

One theme that emerged was Williams’ interest in the role that Twitter might play within organizations as a mechanism for creating transparency in communication between employers and employees.  The idea is that, with people reporting/commenting on the everyday happenings in the company, Twitter might become the spotlight that the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto so brilliantly argued for.  That is, the openness of the network, in general, and of Twitter, in particular, might have the potential to help democratize organizations by calling out toxic managers when they treat people poorly.  There was a palpable idealism in the air.

Well, that was then.  Now, according to current Twitter CEO Dick Costello, Twitter’s new purpose is to help save TV.  Social TV, hashtags, and all of that stuff.  Of course, for us consumers, Twitter will remain free.  The only price of admission for getting on the social TV bandwagon will be our attention.  In exchange for Twitter’s new found purpose (and business model), we will have to endure- a la Pandora and You Tube- ads, ads, and more ads.

Give them credit.  Like Tumblr, Twitter held out for a very long time.  However, for an IPO to go forward (as early as next week), a proper monetization strategy had to be presented.  And with the birth of the new business model, Twitter becomes another of countless advertising fire hoses selling us things we neither need nor asked for.

At the least, Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone will finally cash in, and that is not a bad thing.  These all seem like good people.  Maybe they will take some of that instant wealth and do something more akin to what Williams was talking about at SXSW in 2010.

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