The Marginalization of the Tweet

By Deane Barker

So, Twitter is buying TweetDeck today, and it’s got me thinking about how the tweet just might be getting marginalized, and what that means.

TweetDeck is a good piece of software, but, despite the name, it does more than just post to Twitter. I just checked my copy, and it turns out you can use it to post updates to:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Foursquare
  • Google Buzz
  • MySpace

Additionally, TweetDeck started their “Deckly” service for when you want to have an update of more than 140 characters.

So, it isn’t just a Twitter client it’s an…"update” client? And this has got me thinking if and when the Tweet will get commoditized into a common thing, and what that will be called.

Consider that someday we’ll say “Lady Gaga tweeted today that…” but we don’t mean she actually posted to Twitter. She maybe posted a short notice to Facebook, or whatever the social media network du jour is then. But, for lack of a better, more generic term, we’ll say “Tweet.” As my friend Tim says, “'Tweet’ might become the ‘'Kleenex’ of social media updates.”

The other thing that TweetDeck is foreshadowing is the “shotgun” approach to social media. The idea of a one-to-one relationship between clients and platforms is absurd. You’re going to have a client that shotgun-posts your update (your “Tweet”) to every service under the sun. You will throw something down the pipe, and it ends up everywhere.

When this happens, will you care about the distribution channel? The focus will become on the composition of the update, and the particular channel it ends up in just might be interchangeable. In fact, with all the APIs and mashups around today, you have little control over where it goes now.

Your client is essentially just throwing bytes down an amorphous pipe to get sucked up by the Borg Cube of the Chattering Masses. What advantage will Channel Z provide over Channel Y, and will you care about that or even keep track of where your update goes? Your immediate target might just be some “clearing-house API” into which other platforms are plugged. Remember all those services that provided consolidated trackback pinging for your blog, way back when?

And is this why Twitter bought TweetDeck – to fight against marginalization? How concerned is Twitter that its platform will become nothing more than a commodity, and it’s ultimate legacy might be to just give name to the generic concept of a social media update?

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