Where’s the retweet? Can you see it?
The big news today: Twitter will finally accept retweets and make them part of the built in system or simply put the Twitter home page. At first I was moderately happy about this overdue move until I read the fine print.
In future Twitter will let people block your retweets.
While the retweet blocking might appear as a desirable extra feature it has an obvious drawback: This is like the nofollow attribute for links: Nofollow was meant as an enhancement (to combat spam) but in the end it crippled the Web. Also this might be just the first of many filters to come. The next one could be to filter all “@” messages, or all messages containing links. Why? This way you could subscribe only to the stuff that really interests you. You don’t want to know about Matt Cutts’ cats? Or you don’t care for his fights with Graywolf… Block them! Wouldn’t it be nice? It would to some extent but the effect would be that your followers don’t listen really. They’d ignore large parts of your conversations.
Also Twitter plans to dump the “RT” acronym itself. You won’t recognize at first that a message has been retweeted because only a tiny text below will indicate that it actually was. Otherwise the message will look the same as other tweets. There may be some indentation or color difference but it will become more difficult to recognize a retweet and to count it. Does Twitter try to monopolize the retweet count?
OK, I might sound overtly critical lately but I get a little wary of Twitter becoming what Google is for search, a monopoly in microblogging as described in Slate Magazine.
Last week I suggested that a viable solution would be to collect your Twitter contacts in your favorite CRM solution. When Twitter gets messed up for other reasons than being off line you can’t do anything about it besides to stop using it. Many people by now depend on Twitter though. So the only real solution would be a distributed vendor independent open source microblogging platform that directly connects to Twitter. I’m talking data portability here. We need a way to export both contacts and messages in a real time way not just in a user front end way but for the whole system. When Twitter is down your favorite Twitter client isn’t working either. I’d imagine something like a peer to peer Twitter but without the huge media files. This should be far easier to build than the music sharing networks.
We’ve already seen cases of censorship and government interference on Twitter. So in future it will be crucial to make Twitter work despite the limitations of the current and upcoming system. It’s like the Slate article suggests:
Imagine all of the Web or the whole global e-mail system in the hands of a single company.
This can’t work out with microblogging either.