At the beginning of 2009, during a now-famous strategy meeting, Twitter’s executives asked themselves, “Are we building a new Internet?” At the crux of that question was the realization that Twitter “introduced a new form of communication to the world.” Public micro-messages are now everywhere—on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google, Bing, Yahoo, AIM. They are infiltrating every part of the Web, particularly as the backbone of realtime search.
Yes, status updates (which are a form of micro-message) existed before Twitter, but it is the growing public nature of these messages which makes them exciting. For one thing, they need to be public in order to be visible to search engines. But when Twitter and other companies talk about building a new Internet, they don’t mean that 140-character messages are going to replace web pages. Rather it is that these realtime streams are becoming the center of people’s attention on the Web, and sending them off in all different sorts of directions.
These streams are the new Internet not so much because of the micro-content which they contain, but because they are a more efficient means of communication. Remember, the Internet at its core is a communications system. The battle going on now between Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others is to control this new realtime layer of communications on the Internet. Each one wants to be driving the micro-message bus.
In computer terms, a message bus carries data between different parts of a computer or between different computers. Realtime streams can be thought of as a micro-message bus which carries information instantaneously between people. The power of a micro-message is its ability to carry data, usually in the form of a link. It is a vehicle for passing links and other information. The value of a Tweet or status update or a Yammer or a Wave is not only in what it conveys about the sender, but where it leads to.
Other kinds of data can take a ride on this micro-message bus as well. Geolocation data, photos and videos are among the most popular. Whoever is in the driver’s seat of this micro-message bus will be in an enviable position, which is why everyone is trying to clamor aboard in hopes of taking over the wheel.
Next week, at our Realtime Crunchup (tickets are still available), we’ll be examining how this new communications layer on the Internet is being built and who will be driving the bus. We hope you can join us.
Photo credit: Flickr/Jan Krutisch.