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I have pondered this question many times, but the purpose of this blog entry is not to answer it.
I really just want to remind myself that, in the software world, sometimes the little things are what catch on fire, especially when they are added together.
Long before Twitter was well known, many people were “micro-blogging” with Blogger, Word press, and other such tools—blogging ten times a day, often with just a line and a link. Small blogs have always been possible, so being “micro” can’t be the sole reason Twitter took off.
Limiting the length of an entry does add a level of convenience that wasn't there before, such as allowing SMS tweets. The expectation of spell check or rich text formatting was also removed.
I believe being able to follow everything of interest to you is what made it catch fire.
On the down side, Twitter lacks an RSS feed, topping information overload with even more information overload. Advanced search capacities were lost when Google added reasonable search on RSS,
On the up side…
- You don't need to copy and paste links.
- You don't need to log in to your RSS reader.
- You don't need to second guess the atom.xml URL of the page you're reading.
- You don't need to have an RSS reader at all.
- You don't need to wait for Google to index the page for you; you only need #topic search.
I wonder if Blogger had let you "follow", would Twitter be heard of at all?
I don't know the answer, but I do hold on to Twitter as an example, to remind myself never to underestimate the power of helping users on their daily chores. Rather we will save them from:
- Logging in to other sites.
- Copying and pasting.
- Switching back and forth between applications and windows
- Unnecessary clicks (more true than it used to be due to mobile usage, etc.)
This is where we will make great advances—for new information sources like tweets, and for old ones like email and documents.