So What is Twitter – Part Deux 

This tweet come across from Jason Calacanis today on my new favorite subject – what is twitter?:

JasonCalacanis This quote “twitter is dial tone” from TWIT is really trending…  http://tinyurl.com/ce5v6n @ev @biz @leolaporte

Which got me thinking about my last blog post “So what is twitter anyway?” in which I so eloquently compare twitter to the old party line service where several households shared the same phone line, (or did I?)

If Google is the card catalog to the library then Twitter is the village party line.

Well actually I started to, and then through the edit process ended up with this:

If Google is the village library then Twitter is the village.

So is twitter the dial tone, the party line or the village?

Put simply Dial Tone is a connection waiting to happen.  In the 20th Century it was the dominate connection right up until the Internet hit in the late 90’s.  Since then we’ve been in a state of flux communications wise with the advent of email, Instant Messaging, Voice Over IP, Cell Phones, triple play voice/data/TV service, etc… Personally I think the Dial Tone of the 21st Century is more about the ubiquitous, always on connection to the Internet we keep hearing about and not so much about what we do once we make the connection.

A party line on the other hand is something that comes after the dial tone fades away and a connection is made.  It connects multiple people simultaneously provided they pick up the phone and participate.  I think this gets us closer to what twitter looks like today.  But just as the party line evolved into the one to one and one to many traditional phone service we know today, so too will twitter.  Already people are finding ways to narrow the focus and bring twitter more in line with “mainstream” communications.  The use of # tags and search allow for a filtered experience of the party line, allowing a listener to hear only a subset of conversations.

So perhaps Twitter is more like a party line than Dial Tone (sorry Jason) but what about the idea that it is a village?  Well this is where I was struggling a bit while writing my last post.  I wanted to make the point that Twitter is a tool, just like google, the World Wide Web or Skype.   They all allow me to access information and communicate in the old ways.  What twitter has done that Google and Skype have not is empower me to quickly and easily participate in a global conversation.  I don’t have to subscribe to a mailing list, belong to a forum or exist in a contact list to participate.  I don’t need to install any software or even know any of the other participants.  I can just open my browser and start posting and everyone watching the stream can see me.  It is as though all of us on twitter are sitting around a giant campfire and as we feel like it, we stand up, shout out into the blazing darkness and then sit back down again.  Twitter Founders Evan Willams and Biz Stone built the bond fire and invited us all to come out of our huts and share.  So in that sense I do feel like Twitter is more like a village than anything else.
What do you think?

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