Reporting: Joe Hunkins
Here at the first major Twitter conference it’s surprising to hear a very sharp, leading technology watcher so profoundly misunderstand the significance of Twitter, but it’s happening right now in real time.
Jeremiah Owyang, no stranger to Twitter, is using what I’m pretty sure is mostly canned presentation to explain to the enthusiastic Twitter audience that they are mistaken to see Twitter as singularly significant. He’s certainly right that Twitter is not the only social media game in town and that it’s still smaller than Facebook, but I think he’s missing the significance of the trend here. Twitter is growing faster than any major application in history, it already has widespread mainstream and celebrity adoption across most demographic groups, and it is evolving an ecosystem noted more for how it shares Twitter functionality freely with everybody than how it seeks to be proprietary.
Sure, Twitter is currently far more significant as a sociological phenomenon than as a big business tool. Perhaps Jeremiah’s big business focus is getting in the way here, but the global public conservation has begun in a powerful way and Twitter – more than any other application – is the key to accessing that conversation and participating.
Hmm – I’m live blogging this right now during his presentation and he’s changed his tune a bit to (correctly) suggest many of the ways Twitter is now used by companies to engage with customers. I’m wildly guessing the first part of the presentation was created before the rise of Twitter?
Dear @jowyang, Twitter is not over hyped.
Update: I had a brief chat with Jeremiah and Stowe Boyd (who had also tweeted his disagreement with the “overhyped” tag on Twitter. Owyang noted correctly that many new tech tools come out swinging with a lot of buzz and are labelled “the next big thing” only to land on the dustpile of obscurity or become only marginally significant after a few years. But as somebody noted during that talk Twitter is about human innovation, not technological innovation and thus is more likely to withstand the test of time.
Important but unknown data points make the calculations somewhat unreliable, but for me the growth rate combined with the large current size and easy capitalization suggests Twitter has already become something of a mainstream standard that *cannot* die a quick death and is very unlikely to die a slow one. We needed a standard for chit chatting across the web in the global conversation spawned by the advent of the social web. Although it’s not clear why Twitter is winning this game I think it’s almost clear that they will be the big winner, and since they are sharing the wealth so generously I don’t see how anybody is likely to unseat them. Facebook and Myspace can continue to thrive as private social tools and Google can thrive as the search of choice. Ebay will remain the main US auction space for some time. This still leaves a massive market in which Twitter can continue to provide the key standards and infrastructure for the global conversation.