The personal journal of Chris Brummel, who is currently evaluating his pizza-in-a-cup options.
Twitter. Media darling.
Twitter seems to be on the front page of everything but, curiously, has done nothing functionally interesting. They’re just sitting there keeping the lights on.
Not everyone is just sitting there. Some are wondering, “What’s next?”
That’s exactly what I’ve been wondering. The market is being flooded with innovative features by third party clients and the only innovation that Twitter has added to the fold — search — wasn’t even theirs: it was an acquisition. In fact, according to their blog they’ve only had five user facing updates in the past year, none of which would be deemed as “lighting the barn on fire” by a user.
So what gives? You could make the argument that their growth is because of their lack of innovation, rather than in spite of it. Keeping it simple allows users to focus explicitly on Twitter’s core value instead of unnecessary bloat, and allows the owners to focus on being swooned by the big boys. Even VIPs within the company want new features but seem unwilling to build them.
I get the impression that Twitter knows that the money is in search and is putting all their eggs in that basket. And they’ve done a good job of it: their search implementation is pretty damn slick. But that doesn’t stop me from pining like the biggest geek ever for something new out of them. I want a “groups” feature integrated into Twitter.com. I want drafts. I want threaded replies in my timeline.
But the feature I’d like the most is data interpreters. I’d love it if a link to a TwitPic is not counted against my 140 character count and is called out after my tweet. If a URL is from an approved source, strip out the link and treat the data appropriately. This would work great for video, audio, pictures, and locations. I’m dying to post a tweet from foursquare and not have half of my 140 characters taken up by the venue’s address.
Twitter could keep it simple and just provide a link to the appropriate data; but with the right API calls, third party clients could take the ball and run with this type of info. Maps, audio, video, and photos could be displayed inline or expanded with a click. In fact, Tweetie already visually indicates when a tweet includes a link to a photo.
And don’t worry about the redheaded stepchild in this discussion — SMS. This wouldn’t (and frankly, couldn’t) make that experience any worse for the 5% who still txt than it already is. Twitter could simply append the tweet with a “See More” link that routes the reader to the status’s page. People who get their tweets over SMS aren’t going to be clicking to view a TwitPic anyway, so a status link is just as efficient.
A feature like this would help bring the focus back to the message instead of the message being a URL. I have a hard time imagining the folks at Twitter doing anything close to standing still. The company seems to have the understanding that the premise of “140-character-messages” has a ton of milage and doesn’t need new features, so why change something that’s not broken? But features like this will reaffirm that in this medium, Twitter is the message. As Marshall McLuhan once said:
You should totally bake these features into Twitter.com. Now give me a massage…
So Twitter could continue to sit on their ass and they’ll still be the startup darling that’s perfect for many a company’s portfolio. But a little attention to the users might help with this retention problem that people are suddenly talking about. …actually, it probably won’t, but I’ll go ahead and try to convince you otherwise…