Victus Spiritus


Twitter's Weird Lock In

21 Apr 2010

If you're thinking about migrating your social stream off of a platform you've come to the right place. After 4-5 days mostly weened (I sent a few @replies) off of original content creation on Twitter here are my biggest findings:

Superficial attention grabbing appears to be what centralized social networks do best. They're not the distributed social information tool I think we both need and can construct with today's open web formats.

If you want an open sharing platform I don't believe Twitter, and certainly not Facebook are it. Neither are protocols supporting web friendly networks. These businesses create artificial bottlenecks that capture value based on subtle social network lock in. I suspect they'll become much more open and web friendly as external networks converge on communication protocols, and provide competition (see Marshall Kirkpatrick's XAuth article).

Since I can get all the information I want outside of Twitter, what service is it really providing? It's a great implementation of the observer design pattern, and handles a large central data flow of text updates, but it doesn't provide value beyond casual introductions, and marketing channels. Nearly all of the people I follow on Twitter I met outside of their network, on blog comment sections, as commenters on this blog, or Friendfeed. I'll continue to interract with these folks with greater than 140. Moving my social information flow off of Twitter has been liberating in a way that's hard to put to words. If you want to see what I'm up to you can visit my Google profile for now, or stop by here.

Robert Scoble had suggested interest in moving his favorites into Buzz. But I quickly found out, the favorites aren't his to move. The RSS is rate limited and can't easily be exported from twitter to other networks, in an open web format. This is a perfect example of the gilded cage of social networks, and proof of data ownership.