Twitter 2012

Tomorrow friendfeed is coming out with a new version that’s quite different from what it did before (I have a video of the meeting where friendfeed’s co-founders demonstrate the new version to a bunch of bloggers including from VentureBeat, TechCrunch, and a variety of others. That set of videos will be up Monday morning at about 9 a.m. Pacific Time).

I’ll be honest. I’m finding that new version of friendfeed unsatisfying on one level. Why? Because it isn’t Twitter.

“Huh?” I can hear you asking me. I’m sure you’re confused because I’m friendfeed’s number one fan.

Well, hear me out. Twitter’s success is its simplicity. It has no comments. No likes. No location metadata. No attachments. No enclosures. No headlines. No body text.

It is just a “river of noise” coming at you in reverse-chronological goodness 140 characters at a time.

That simplicity along with its publicness is why it is continuing to get hype, even as Facebook passed 200 million users (which, in more common times, would guarantee it 10x the hype of Twitter).

See, celebrities are who Twitter is aiming at now and celebrities don’t get all the geeky metadata that Facebook (tagging? too hard) and friendfeed (likes? too hard) have. See, if you are hiring ghost writers to keep your public image clean, as many of the celebrity accounts have done, you can’t teach “proper liking behavior.” I’m only halfway kidding.

But there is a world I want. I call it the world of Twitter 2012. Here, let me explain.

When that plane crashed into the Hudson I was watching most of the early Tweets. Most of the tweets that came in the first hour were total noise. People saying stuff like “I hope everyone survived” or “OMG, plane crash in NY.” But there were a few tweets that I remembered. The one with the picture of the plane in the water. The ones where people in New York said “I just saw a plane crash in the Hudson.”

Those were the high value Tweets. But how do we get them to stick around?

Well, you can retweet them. That’s metadata. You can put a hashtag on them. That’s metadata.

Or you could pull them into friendfeed and “like” them and “comment” on them. That’s hard, but that’s metadata too that’s more useful than Twitter’s metadata because it doesn’t need to be included inside the Tweet (which takes away characters from Twitter’s 140).

The real problem is we need more metadata to make this new world more useful. Here’s what I want to do in Twitter 2012.

If something like the Hudson plane crash happens in Twitter 2012, I want to draw a box around New York and tell Twitter “only show me Tweets from inside this box.” To do that Twitter will need more metadata. In this case, location of where Tweets are being sent from (Twitter could easily get that from my iPhone’s GPS or use my Internet provider’s data to get detail on where my location is).

Yes, I can set that in Twitter’s profile, but really that is pretty useless (I might be in New York on vacation and if my profile says Half Moon Bay it will think I’m Tweeting from Half Moon Bay).

What else might I like in Twitter 2012?

I bet that by then not having these features will look pretty lame:

1. Grouping. I’m following too many people so tweets go by too fast to read them. I’d like to group the people I’m following so that I can see their tweets separated into folders. But that would mean making Twitter more complex. More complexity isn’t working well for friendfeed, is it? It is for geeks like me, but what about normal people? No, not as well.
2. More data types. Why do I need to come to to write a long blog post like this one (which you probably discovered on my Tweet stream as a URL, right?) Why can’t I do that from inside Twitter 2012? How about photos? Why do I need to use a service like TwitPic to post a photo? Why do I need to use YouTube,, or Seesmic to post a video? Why can’t I do that right from Twitter’s UI? But adding those data types to Twitter will mean making Twitter more complex and will mean that Twitter will have to copy Facebook and friendfeed.
3. Real DM’s. Twitter’s Direct Messages suck right now. I have to follow you for you to even be able to send direct messages. And when you do send them to me I can’t search through them. I can’t forward them. I can’t copy other people on them. They are really lame. Yet even though they are really lame tons of people use them (which is the biggest reason I automatically follow back everyone on Twitter who follows me now — I want all my followers to be able to DM me. If Twitter 2012 got rid of that limitation I’d stop auto following everyone).
4. Filtering. In Twitter 2012 there will be many people with millions of followers and the flow will be eight times higher than it is today. Plus, many accounts will be machine generated. The Washington State Department of Transportation shows one such account. You send a tweet to it to find out how long times to cross the border are and it Tweets you back with the time automatically. By 2012 there will be thousands of such applications you can use Twitter for.
5. Location based information. In addition to the ability to search Tweets written from New York about plane crashes, I want to see all the Tweets written from, say, University Ave. in Palo Alto about restaurant experiences there. So, if someone says “Pluto’s rocks” there should be an aggregator that lets you see how many people talked about Plutos. Obviously only people writing on their iPhones FROM Plutos on University Ave. should be listened to. After all, if they are posting from Australia it’s probably not going to be very relevant. I can see a bunch of such ideas.
6. Like with my recent video of Apture I can see a bunch of different ways to present more information. Why have just a text URL? Why not bring up a whole control pad of information about your Tweet. After all, if I link to Dave Winer’s blog, why not include links to his videos, his photos, his podcasts, etc?

Well, it’s 2:42 a.m. and I could keep going if a nice warm bed weren’t calling my name, but this is just a start of a conversation. 2012 is three years away. What would you like Twitter to become by then?