Are We Ready for Twitter 2.0?

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-08

News Analysis: Big things are happening at Twitter. Last week, Twitter started rolling out its geolocation API to limited testing, enabling developers to add latitude and longitude for tweets.

Twitter last week also announced the coming of Lists, which lets users curate lists of Twitter accounts. And just today, AllThingsDigital reported that Twitter is negotiating with Google and Microsoft to give those companies a full feed from the microblogging service to integrate into Google search and Microsoft's Bing search. If that happens, Twitter will surely be eating at the table with the other Internet adults.

What does all of this mean? We are entering Twitter 2.0, which extends Twitter beyond the simple, post 140-character missive, rant or declarative sentence and into a richer realm of real-time communications.

This new world will be captivated by location-based tweeting. Tweet-level location data will bring users tweets from anyone within a certain geographic area instead of just the people Twitter users follow. "It's easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake," Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said.

Twitter Lists will let users categorize, and therefore better organize, Twitter content. For example, users could create list of funny or important Twitter accounts, as well as those by colleagues, athletes, friends or businesses-not unlike the way we can put people in groups in Facebook and other social Web services.

Other Twitter users can then subscribe to these lists, offering, as Twitter Lists project lead Nick Kallen said, "the potential to be an important new discovery mechanism for great tweets and accounts."

As I noted, other social services let users share friend lists. Twitter is joining the social sharing party, so it is considered a big deal among people who detest, vilify and excoriate the Web 1.0 world of closed, one-to-one services.

The blogosphere doted on Twitter's Lists news in reverential tones normally reserved for discussions about the Sistine Chapel. Hogwash. As with so many other features out there, if you have to tell readers why something is important, its importance is not obvious. Therefore, it is not that important, but I digress.

In any event, with these new features comes great responsibility, and I've got to wonder, are we ready for all of that? As the New York Times pointed out in a  fine piece Oct. 7, sports teams, celebrities and corporations are all struggling with Twitter, or at the least the ramifications of what happens when we say possibly defamatory or libelous things on the Web service.

Actually, it doesn't look as though we can technically defame or libel people on Twitter, since it's opinion in the mode of free speech, but common sense is clearly not prevailing on Twitter for the halfwits among the celebrity moronati. See my nod to Steve Lyons about Twitter being the dumbest Web service ever to warrant a whopping, $1 billion valuation.

While Twitter is juggling geolocation, sharable lists and data mining deals with Internet giants, we've got users who need to be reined for tweets that make them look less than professional. Organizations that employ or manage them are cracking down and taking precautionary measures.

Publications like  ESPN the Washington Post are defining acceptable social media use. North American sports leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL are ordering that players not use their smartphones for tweeting 30 minutes before and after games, practices, meetings and media access periods.

Fortunately, there are enough businesses-Dell, Pepsi, etc.-that do use Twitter appropriately. Let's hope those are the targets Twitter focuses on catering to, and perhaps they will end up separating the wheat from the chaff.


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