Twitter as a Platform

Om Malik lays down reasons on why Twitter should not sell. The key point by Om that resonated with some of my own thinking was this

…“it depends” — on whether Twitter sees itself a service or a platform that would help foster a lot of services on top of itself.

I have been a fan of Twitter for some time now. And my thoughts about it have been for usage as a front-end for interacting with cloud based services; along with adding appropriate mechanisms to augment it with metadata.

Twitter, along with its real-time element, has the curious ability to sit comfortably in two distinct interaction styles: i) Publish-Subscribe and ii) Request-Response

Publish-Subscribe

This is the style of interaction commonly used in Twitter. Publish a short 140 chars text and all your subscribers who follow your updates will receive the update. Note that the message delivery characteristics are sufficiently real-time and asynchronous.

Request-Response

This is relatively unrecognized style of interaction possible with Twitter. Given that the identity of participating users is dealt with, it becomes feasible to drive entitlement based services.

Interaction Scenario: Request Response

What do I mean by this and how would it work? Imagine a Twitter user called “AcmeCo”, which is the twitter profile of a company called “Acme Corporation” from whom you have bought a widget. You have registered a bug report with with them. Now you want to check the status of this bug. An easy way would be to send a twitter style status check message, like “check bug id 123”. On the other end there could either be a human user behind the AcmeCo user profile or an automated service. All they would do is to check the status against an internal system and respond with status of the bug.

In this entire interaction there is no question of broadcasting the message to the world. That would defeat the purpose of request response based interactions, especially if it is of a confidential nature.

All these message interaction would be done as a DirectMessage within Twitter, hence essentially private to the systems interacting here.

Shout out a message when you want the world to hear, and possibly respond, or whisper a direct message to the single user from whom you definitely expect some response or action.

What we have now is a request-response style interaction on a publish-subscribe service and it all feels so natural.

For the idea of Twitter as a platform to work there is lots more to be done beyond the API currently in place. Some immediate areas to focus are around transport security, message integrity and service reliability.

With these sorted, I feel the idea of Twitter as a platform will get more credence and traction than the stand-alone service that is being talked about now.

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