(n.b. this post was written before Google+ launched – published it after but decided to leave it as is although will probably revisit some of the ideas in another post)
Twitter, in my opinion, is throwing down the gauntlet to facebook in the social network stakes.
No longer content with being the plaything of the famous and those that would follow them I believe twitter has worked out their true calling which is to be come the internet’s social fabric. They are to end up becoming to social what google is to search.
A toll booth operator.
Here is a parallel to consider.
Back in 1981 a young Bill Gates in a amazing display of vision, luck or both positioned his recently ‘developed’ DOS operating system to become the defacto standard operating system of the PC revolution that was to follow. He did it by essentially solving a problem en masse at a price point that made sense to larger players who were focused on more strategic activities, like selling computers, back when the hardware game had margin.
Like any company (not just tech), the way to riches is to sell a large amount of something small and create profitability through economies of scale and operational efficiency and any good transactional model starts out with selling something small but important (like an OS), for a seemlingly innocous amount and over time leveraging that piece, growing the value proposition and finally the revenue/margin per transaction.
Today, especially in the public perception, social = facebook. Of course it does, you don’t need to hear the statistics from me, whether it’s users, mobile internet usage, advertising spend or even article mentions. But Mark Zuckerberg himself correctly pointed out that % meaures of the available market are of limited value when you believe you can GROW the market.
In other words, the opportunity for to improve many facets of the internet and indeed commerce in general with social capability, is wide open. The future is well beyond photos & status updates.
Facebook knows this, and so does twitter.
So, how does this relate to Micrsoft & Apple? Well, simple really. Both Apple and Facebook are building everything INTO their network, creating a carefull controlled and curated user experience. But Microsoft, back in 1981, went the opposite way, creating ubiquity and growing the available market in the process.
In other words, twitter is positioning themselves to become the social fabric of the internet, to enable application providers to build social capability into the next generation of software AND devices. Apple’s announcement at WWDC only last week is testament to the strategy and I believe the first of many devices and software plays that will leverage twitter. This will not only enhance the value of software or hardware but will also make joining twitter more compelling, growing the network and creating a virtious cycle.
Final thought on where this will end up?
I believe John Gotts got it right when he commented on article by Joe Wilcox on betanews eariler today, that Apple will end buying twitter, but perhaps not until they’ve built up healthy network to then close off and monetise.