Twitter turned seven years old today. The company posted a fun video about its history, which we already know plenty about. We’ll get to that later, though. Another thing we know about Twitter is its impact. But the important question is this: What does the future look like for the company?
To remain relevant for the next seven years, Twitter has to stay true to its original mission of being an open communication platform. To do that, the company has to refrain from adding too many features and getting in the way of its core strengths, which is real-time notification of our stream of consciousness. Sure, the company can figure out how to monetize this all they like, because after all, employees don’t work for free and servers don’t pay for themselves.
I’ll save you all of the reminiscing about the major stories and moments that have broken on Twitter and instead focus on the fact that the company has cracked into the mainstream in a way that not many other services have. You can’t go a day without reading a story on ESPN where a player is quoted via a tweet they published. That says more about Twitter than any tech pundit, mom or teenager could ever say. Twitter has become a reliable source for information in real-time, and it’s only becoming more prevalent in our daily lives as the moments pass by.
When I hear Twitter’s founders discuss the early days of the service, there are still elements of that magic that can be seen today, only amplified. You can’t tweet about something that affects your company without getting in trouble and you certainly can’t misstep if you’re a public figure. Still though, in the midst of these millions of tweets, there is a sense of intimacy that hasn’t been matched by any other social service. The only thing that is between you and millions of people is the tweet button.
Exactly one year ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.— 𝕏𝕖𝕟𝕚 𝕁𝕒𝕣𝕕𝕚𝕟 (@xeni) December 1, 2012
When you see a tweet like the one above, other than it being very personal, you have to remember that Xeni was referencing something she spoke about on Twitter a year before that moment. Using Twitter, she had kept people informed on her progress, her roadblocks and everything in between. If you were to follow her on Twitter you’d be able to connect with her and her thoughts and emotions in a way that you could never do on Myspace, Friendster or even Facebook. It’s real, it’s raw and it’s right now. It’s pure. It simply has to stay that way.
There have been rumors that Twitter will be launching its own music app and that’s causing some to rehash the discussion about how Twitter will change and become a horrible “media company.” That argument doesn’t hold much water. This music app, which Twitter hasn’t confirmed or denied, would be a standalone app that simply uses all of the signals that we’re giving the service to yank out useful recommendations and music listening options. The same thing happened with Vine. If you remember, Twitter wanted to get into video, so it bought the service and launched it in a standalone fashion. Sure, you can see Vines within your Twitter stream, but if you’re really into video, the Vine app is where you’ll spend your time. By segmenting all of these different types of media into their own apps, Twitter is actually protecting its platform. To be successful in the future, this needs to continue.
Having said all of this, Twitter is indeed trying to build a successful business and company in the hopes of going public as early as next year. You can’t hold that against them, but you can hold them to their original appeal, which is a clean platform that only asks you to share “What’s Happening?” in 140 characters. If that ever changes dramatically, we can then start to worry.
Here’s how our founder, Michael Arrington, described Twitter (then called Twttr) when it launched in 2006:
Odeo released a new service today called Twttr, which is a sort of “group send” SMS application. Each person controls their own network of friends. When any of them send a text message to “40404,” all of his or her friends see the message via sms.
After seven years, this description still rings true. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Now, if you’d like to watch, here’s Twitter’s celebratory seventh birthday video:
[Photo credit: Flickr]