There is no denying that Twitter is the darling of Web 2.0 that as I pointed out yesterday is doing some heavy petting with the mainstream. Even though in a previous post where I questioned its ability to go mainstream I have come to realize that it really is sitting on the fence to major acceptance. The problem is that Twitter has an ongoing dance with instability as it is as well known as the service itself. This had lead to many discussions regarding how best to deal with this stability problem.
Whether it is Dave Winer who suggests that the data is the most important and should be decentralized or whether it is Scott Hanselman who is calling for an open Twitter like service that isn’t tied to one service. Then we have Hank Williams from the Why Does Everything Suck blog suggesting that Twitter as a company could go down the tubes if something like an open Twitter clone that uses the Twitter API gains momentum. Mathew Ingram uses Hank’s post along with the TechCrunch post on the matter as his way to question whether Twitter needs to be fixed or not.
As important as this whole idea of decentralizing Twitter seems to be to the Web 2.0 movers and shakers it only shows me that as we continue to use the service and have this conversation about decentralizing the service that is really is no different than the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) we have been using since long before the Internet. After all IRC is by its very nature is a decentralized communication service with IRC networks held together by servers around the world. Unless it is like a private IRC server such as the one I have run in the past most major IRC networks are multiple systems so that if one goes down there is another to switch to most of the time automatically (Netsplit anyone?).
The fact is that when you really get down to brass tacks Twitter is nothing more than a dumbed down pretty interface than what IRC is. Where Twitter has three different types of communication channels so does IRC. If we take a look at similarities between the two we can really see that there is no difference between the two types of service other than the fact that Twitter is limited to what happens with the Twitterverse; whereas IRC is a completely open ended system.
The only thing that Twitter has done is moved the concept of IRC to an easily beautified user interface of HTML. This becomes doubly apparent with everyone talking about how Twitter needs to be decentralized. I guess this is one reason why I find it hard to become enamored with Twitter because it isn’t doing anything really new with communications. Whether or not decentralization of the service ever comes about I don’t know but whatever Twitter does; as well as the people involved with the Twitterverse that has developed around it, all they are doing is re-inventing something that has come before.
Sure sometimes re-inventing does make improvements and I guess that after a fashion Twitter has in effect made IRC something that is less arcane but I think that there is a much simpler solution for those folks who want to decentralize Twitter. All you would need is some clever developers to sit back and changed the IRC interface to one that is totally plain English rather than its current geek speak.
So what these folks like Dave Winer, Marc Canter and Michael Arrington would like to see happen to Twitter already exists it just needs some clever people to extend or add to it along with making the interface understandable and useable by regular folk. No need to re-invent the wheel once again – just improve it.
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