The RSS-is-not-dead-it’s just-Twitter Lobby is finally getting the point. As Dave Winer, Anil Dash, Stowe Boyd, Fred Wilson, and whoever else thinks the time for the Bum’s Rush is upon us are proclaiming, the Open Twitter API can save the world from onecompanyitis. In five words: Bearhug Twitter and feed them PB&J until they explode. I know that’s 9 words, but in this upside down argument, it’s really 5 invented in 2001 with just 4 small one-time-only updates.
Only one small problem: Twitter killed RSS, not the other way around. Twitter didn’t do RSS some big favor by extracting the vast majority of citations away from Google Reader and its victims in the RSS aggregator wars. Twitter rolled through downtown URLville and right over every social media platform including Facebook with one simple premise. Hi, how you doin’? You are what you tweet. The next big thing since Gmail. Please put down your lunchbox and take a number.
Today URLs flow through Twitter. Ideas ship on Twitter. Software is built on Twitter. Fine: the Open RSS API means we can now write to a standard interface that lets Twitter clients become carriers for blogs, conversations, comments, podcasts, and all sorts of unaffiliated competitors. Except that’s hogwash. The time for bearhugging Twitter to the ground vanished when Facebook realized it had to clone Twitter or lose control of the social graph. Once FriendFeed created a realtime conversational data type, the race was under way to codify Twitter and extend it before Twitter absorbed the capability. Neither has happened yet, but once either company reaches that goal, there is no need for a social revolution.
This is not the IM Wars all over again. This is not Do No Evil 2.0. Twitter has produced a great service that transcends the politics of the moment, just as Gmail eviscerated email as we knew it. What part of Yum, Good do we fail to understand is bad for us? It’s a simple and inviolate contract: you do something useful and I’ll give you my data. How do they make money with that? Don’t care, they’ll think of something. If everybody likes it, you got yourself a lock on the market.
This is why the Gphone materializing is just as good for Apple as Google, and therefore all of us. Competition drives innovation, and it also drives duopolies, as Jason correctly noted on this week’s Gillmor Gang. Twitter has already created a duopoly, by proffering a public model with exceptional filtering characteristics that neatly validates Facebook’s private identity model. The power is not in a single API unification but rather an economic duopoly at the intersection of the two social platforms.
Why is the Gphone powerful? Because it leverages price supports to drive the cost of the device toward zero for the user. Google can afford to lower the smartphone entry point to match the iPhone, and in so doing set up a competitive environment where social applications can flourish equally well across both platforms. Those broadband social applications (using hybrid development tools across ChromeOS and Silverlight) provide a second wave of price supports in the form of marketing and transactional revenue. 1% of everything that moves is plenty of a business model for Twitter, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the rest of the global economy to boot.
This doesn’t mean that there’s no room for the little guy, the small developer, the open source aesthetic, the impulse to contribute to the community. It just means that painting these companies as evil or controlling or untrustworthy begins to say more about the motives of those who attack them. Of course Twitter can be disingenuous when they remove services for “technical” reasons only to sell them off to Microsoft and Google for millions of dollars when they rebuild their infrastructure. But did that slow down adoption of the service or the proliferation of third party apps? Is Facebook slowing down as it tramples privacy?
No and no. Twitter continues to build out its dominant social array of overlapping follow clouds. Lists and firewalled retweets may keep Scoble and others busy, but until realtime conversation is enabled, Twitter will be valuable mostly for its ubiquity and trigger mechanism for dynamic filtering. Facebook is testing Twitter posting, which when implemented will become the laboratory for FriendFeed style aggregation and realtime chat. Put simply, Facebook will become the hybrid of both models, forcing Twitter to enable threading to contain the damage to its authority model.
We’re seeing a realtime negotiation between these two leaders of the social revolution, with Benioff, Ozzie, Jobs, and LarrynSergey waiting patiently just off camera. It’s a good time for the Open Twitter API guys to declare victory, but it would be nice if they stopped sliming the socialcos and bigcos who get it just as much.