Why Twitter is Actually Something New and Different

Why is Twitter Different From What’s Come Before?

I pride myself on being on top of the latest technologies but I think I unfairly judged Twitter a while back. I decided it wasn’t really useful or important; just another IM type tool. Chat-all-over-again. But I was wrong. Twitter is something new.

  • It is both real-time and asynchronous
  • You can reach more people, more quickly, and the ratio of influencers to the general population is still quite high on Twitter because it is early in adoption cycle
  • The threshold for interaction and sharing is lower: People accept messages, publish messages to, and forward things (by “Re-tweeting”) along weaker social links (meaning, to, from and via people they barely know or don’t know at all; this does not happen with email except in the case of chain-letters).
  • Twitter has a different social structure and sharing dynamic than email — there is a strong sense of shared place, where everyone is able to see the public activity stream, and can easily follow sudden conversations and issues that flare up in the commons.
  • Twitter has its own somewhat unspoken rules of ettiquette around following, direct messaging, tweeting, etc. The best-practices for using Twitter, and for integrating with Twitter, are not easy to find, and I’m not sure there really are rules or standards. You sort of have to figure it all out on your own.
  • Twitter is also quite different from other IM systems because the way it is designed encourages public and group discourse, not just person-to-person messaging. It has more of a “commons” in it.
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