If you’ve been reading some of the comments on TechCrunch recently, perhaps you’ve noticed some backlash against our coverage of Twitter. As is usually the case with comments, a small, but vocal minority get all worked up about something and air their grievances — over and over again. And that’s fine. More often than not, the comments are amusing, and sometimes they’re even insightful. We’ve actually already weighed in on the topic of Twitter coverage once before, a few months ago, but seeing as I’m now the primary driver of Twitter stories on the site, I thought I’d take this weekend afternoon to weigh in myself.
Simply put, we write about Twitter so often because right now, it matters. From news organizations to movie stars, from earthquakes to fires, from Facebook to Google — everyone seems to be talking about, to or with Twitter. In an era of mass communication, it is the latest medium. And it’s fundamentally changing the ways in which people interact with others using the web. What you may view as a stupidly simple service with no real point, I view as one of the few inspirational products in bleak times.
I would argue that Twitter works so well precisely because it’s so simple. It fools some people with its “What are you doing?” question that resides at the top of the page, but Twitter can pretty much be about whatever you want it to be about. That’s why it’s an absolutely brilliant platform for so many new startups to build on top of. And those startups are really the key. They’re what are keeping Twitter so hot right now. Every day, something new launches on top of Twitter; some get coverage, some don’t. Some are silly, some are smart, some might actually work. But overall, the level of activity around the platform is amazing.
And that activity, fuels growth and feeds the system full of its most important life-blood: Information. It’s this real-time information that is Twitter’s most valuable asset. And it’s information that Twitter will soon begin mining in more interesting ways with its search product — which should be useful to a lot of people. And it should lead to even more innovation and more startups.
Stop and think for a moment about any one startup that has had such an impact on other startups. There aren’t many, and there really hasn’t been one for a while. I suppose you could throw Facebook in there, and before that obviously Google. But really, there aren’t too many companies in general that are changing the ways others do things, the way Twitter is right now.
And that’s why I think it’s worth writing about so often. It’s not just about Twitter, the product, it’s also about Twitter, the idea. And Twitter, the catalyst of change. Twitter has shaken shit up in the industry. And it’s exciting as hell when a company does that, because the subsequent chaos almost always breeds cool new things. And “cool new things” is what technology is and always has been about.
And if you’ve been paying attention, Twitter is hardly the only thing in technology to have gotten a lot of hype and draw complaints for getting too much coverage in the past few years. We saw it with Google, we saw it with Facebook, we saw it with the iPhone and then we saw it again with the App Store. What do all of these things share in common? They all shook shit up. They were all great products, all became very popular, and all caused industry shifts. Twitter is just the latest of these. But it won’t be the last.
When that something new comes along, we’ll be on it, covering it relentlessly too. Because these things matter, because we’re passionate about them and because the vast majority of readers do care.
And at least we’re not gushing over the people behind the scenes at Twitter as they go out drinking at night, like The New York Times did today. Not yet, anyway.