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Twitter needs to die for microblogging to live

Twitter's recent failures prove the value of the service as well as why it needs to be distributed beyond just one brand of microblogs.

Twitter has quickly become a cultural phenomenon among the technorati and celebrity set who, for whatever reason, want to share their lives with their followers. And while a new study suggests that the majority of tweets are pointless babble, there is clearly value somewhere or else people would have dropped it months ago.


That's not to suggest that microblogging is guaranteed to be successful, and certainly not guaranteed to be lucrative, even for Twitter. With no clear revenue model and ever-increasing expectations, the monetization of Twitter remains one of Silicon Valley's favorite conversation topics.

Regardless, the service has introduced a new way to communicate that is unlikely to disappear overnight. As part of the microblogging evolution, Slate's Farhad Manjoo contends that Twitter itself needs to die. And he might be right, at least in the sense that for microblogging to become something bigger media properties and open standards need to find their way into the mix.

If Twitter worked more like e-mail or the Web--a system managed by different entities that were connected by common Web protocols--a hit like last week's wouldn't be crippling. A denial-of-service attack would have brought down some people's status updates, but Twitter would still work for most of the world.

The basic idea is that Twitter-like services should become more like RSS (Really Simple Syndication), an idea which not surprisingly comes from RSS co-creator Dave Winer. And while RSS is not the exact analogy as it's not real-time nor is it geared toward request/response scenarios, it is the model for disseminating information across a vast array of Internet-connected resources.

So far the attempts at replication/integration that we see from social sites like Facebook and FriendFeed are nothing more than next-generation screen-scraping. But this approach might actually fly long term because microblogging services will eventually become nothing more than dumb pipes, something that media sites like Yahoo and AOL have been good at leveraging for years.

The methods by which people truly interact on the Internet and mobile phones will also help to prove out who will win the microblogging battle. If it's IM then I lean toward Yahoo and AOL as potential winners. If it's all through SMS (Short Message Service) then the carriers will get their share. Ultimately, if we're just talking about content then the delivery mechanism shouldn't be locked into one brand.

(Via @betajames)

Follow me on Twitter @daveofdoom.