On March 24th, David Sarno in his LA Times article “There’s Twitter the companym and Twitter the Medium” highlights some important concerns with the relatively new and booming microblogging service. Technology celebrities like Leo Laporte and Dave Winer have both addressed the need and appeal of Twitter as well as their concern about the closed, non-transparent nature of the company that runs it.
They kind of have you, said Laporte, who now has more than 100,000 followers on the service. The same way that Facebook has you: because you have to go where the community is.
Still, being in thrall to Twitter hasnt stopped Laporte from joining a conversation thats taking hold on the services fringes. As this group of Web subversives sees it, the once-tiny Twitter has grown like a magic beanstalk into a full-fledged communications medium taking its place alongside Web pages, e-mail and maybe even television. And though the 30-person, San Francisco start-up is not exactly General Electric, digital trust-busters believe the same rules apply: One company shouldnt have a monopoly…
“Those of us who are participating are pumping value into this closed system and trusting that Twitter will do the right thing with it,” said Laporte, referring to the tweets users pour into Twitter’s databases every day by the million.
People love the convenience and reach of social media systems like Twitter, he said. “But what they ignore is that theres a dark side to all of that, which is that these companies have a huge amount of control over whats going on.”
With this concern comes new innovation, open source ventures like Laconi.ca and it’s initial install Identi.ca have spawned Twitter-clones for those who want to break from the mold and grasp of the extremely commercial Twitter.
Now with these other incarnations of Twitter comes one inherent issue… lack of communication between the original and those clones. Unlike other popular clones (IBM-compatible computers and the new Hackintosh) these Laconi.ca installations talk to one another but don’t exactly communicate with the original. On Identi.ca you can send your posts from that service to your Twitter account but you can’t set it so that your Tweets on Twitter go to you Identi.ca and other Laconica installed programs.
Another issue that I see that is hindering the growth of Twitter-clones is the lack of connection and polarization. On Twitter, “everyone” is there. People from Laporte and Winer to Kevin Rose, Shaq and others. Twitter is the “IT” place to be right now. At almost ever tech event the biggest thing in the tech community (in the Valley and beyond) is your Twitter identity. People wear their @twitternames on name tags like badges of honor and look to connect with everyone they meet on a more interactive and social level. Tweetups have spawned and become a new word in our vernacular and have extended “Social Media” beyond the desk, keyboard and mouse to local pubs and meeting places.
With this in mind, the idea that one, yes one, company is the gate keeper of all this exchanging of ideas and clearly (rightfully so) is capitalizing on it is a bit worrisome. When Twitter goes down or launches a Fail Wale, that iconic image that emerges from the depths of the Twitter ocean every time the service has a hiccup, the community is held hostage. This is a concern, with this new era of transparency, in Washington and online Twitter is an ivory castle with big thick-doors keeping peering eyes from peaking in.
The only way that Twitter as a medium can grow and truly be a medium for the people is to intertwine itself or have the clones intertwine themselves together for cross pollination between the different Twitter-like services.
What are your thoughts on this? Are you concerned? What do you think should be done to open up the system? Post your thoughts below.