Reminder: Twine is a Beta — A note about what Beta means

I want to remind everyone, TWINE IS A BETA. It is only a beta. Beta means not finished, under development, work in progress, construction site, imperfect, open to feedback, undergoing testing, getting better everyday, in need of more work, etc. and many other things that are not synonymous with “finished” or “ready for consumer launch.” We know this. We never claimed otherwise. We opened Twine early to get feedback and let the community play around and give us feedback to guide our future work.

Some of the recent coverage of our project has seemingly misunderstood the meaning of the term “beta” or forgotten it, or simply expected a beta to be more of a finished application. Perhaps this is because many companies never come out of beta or use beta to mean “1.0, only cooler.” In our case, beta really means Beta. We knew there were bugs and unfinished features, but we decided to open up anyway in order to get user feedback to guide our further work.

But even though Twine is a beta, it is already quite useful, and there is a large and thriving community in there sharing knowledge about interests including the Semantic Web, Web 3.0, Web 2.0, venture capital, politics, art, fashion, travel, cultures, religion, books, and many other interests.

In fact, the number of connections I have in Twine is rapidly approaching, and will probably soon surpass, the number of connections I have in Facebook. And in terms of use, we are finding that our users are visiting Twine many times a day and actively adding information, searching, and participating in discussions and debates there.

The hype around the Semantic Web (and even Twine) is in my opinion justified, but it will take time for that opinion to be obvious to everyone. In the meantime, I do think it has gotten a bit out of control. There is too much wild speculation and a general feeling that somehow the Semantic Web (or services like Twine) will solve every problem on the Internet. That won’t be the case. However the Semantic Web and services like Twine that are built with it will  improve the content of the Web and enable applications to become smarter with less work.

To some degree the hype around the Semantic Web has set unrealistic expectations and it’s not surprising that there is now some backlash. Some folks who came into Twine may have had impossible expectations — perhaps thinking Twine would be some kind of a three-dimensional interface to all information, or a kind of Hal 9000 intelligent assistant. I’m sorry to disappoint them. Twine is much more pragmatic and focused on things like organizing, sharing and discovering information around interests. It is also just a first step in a long development path in which much more will be added in the future. And let’s not forget… Twine is in Beta. It’s not finished yet.

I think the backlash is good actually — it will reset expectations to realistic levels. Hopefully then folks can focus on what the Semantic Web (and Twine) do today, rather than what they imagine they might do in 20 years, or what they don’t do yet.

In the case of Twine, it is not a panacea, but it is certainly well on its way to becoming a leading semantically-driven online service with some interesting opportunities in the marketplace. There is certainly a lot more in the application than can be discovered in 7 minutes of using it and I can understand how that might be frustrating to reviewers who have little time and high expectations of a finished consumer app. That is something we are working on and when we eventually move out of beta, it is something we will be able to say we have solved it.

Meanwhile, Twine is a beta and while there is already a LOT there, we can, must, and will be doing much, much more to address usability and finish features that are
still under development and imperfect.