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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is Twitter another AOL?

If you remember the early days of the Internet, the hot place then was AOL. You could dial up into a world of content and services, all within the AOL walls.
And then there was the internet itself.

Now you can plug into an infinite stream of tweets through Twitter, and there are thousands of developers who built great tools and services around the core Twitter system. And then there is the rest of the world, with open source and open standards like OpenID, OpenStatus (OStatus), etc...
Twitter is a great public infrastructure today, and they provide huge value, but there is one flaw in this system: it is owned by one corporation controlled by just a few people and these people are on a deadline to sell Twitter to the highest bidder, so that they can return the money they invested, plus profit, to their limited partners. And it could be an IPO, which means that the control is transferred to another few people seating on the board of directors, whose fiduciary duty is to maximize the return for stockholders. Or it could be sold to a large corporation controlled by another set of few people on the board of directors, with a different agenda but a similar duty to maximize returns.
The users in this picture are just fuel into the system, they are not even customers at this point, not the best position to be in.
And similarly, all the developers who built services on top of this infrastructure are dependent on a system that they do not control. Not a good position to be in either.

So while AOL was great for a while and Twitter is great for now, I think that the real future is with a distributed network of Open Status enabled services like You can get the same functionality of publishing notices and following as many people as you like, and letting other services access your info to provide you additional value, but in a much more transparent, sustainable way.

The question is how long will it take to switch from one architecture to the next?
I am there already (, and you should too.