Experts: Twitter is the Game-Changer

Last Updated Jul 17, 2009 2:06 AM EDT

Pasadena, CA. Earlier today, during a meeting in Silicon Valley, I spoke with two exceptionally talented executives, both of whom have had long, successful careers with tech/media companies big and small, and both of whom have been extremely active online since the earliest days of the web.

One is an expert in technology, whose innovations have affected users the world over; the other, a leader in communications, with a A List of contacts in and out of the biggest and coolest companies inside the Valley and beyond. I'm sorry I cannot name them here, but suffice it to say they was an education of the highest order for your simple Bnet Industries blogger just to be present.

The conversation quickly turned to Twitter and whether it was a passing fad or here to stay.

"Twitter is exactly what the Internet was around 1996," said the first man. "It represents nothing less than the New Internet. It is the game-changer."

"It is growing exponentially, just as the Internet did after Tim Berners-Lee invented the web," said the second. "And its growth is global in scope, which will prove to be significant."

"What will come next," said the first, "will be that all the things we saw in the mid-'90s. They need to be re-invented for Twitter. Search and all other functionalities have to be developed to sit on top of Twitter, just as they once had to be invented to sit on top of the web browser."

"There needs to be a Yahoo for Twitter, i.e., the organization of all historical knowledge, the master index, the portal," noted the second.

"Yes!" said the first emphatically, "and in fact, these tools are already coming. There are at least 7,000, maybe many more APIs, running on top of Twitter. Thousands of entrepreneurs are trying to build the 'killer app.' Some will succeed, most will fail."

"The next Xbox 360 will have Twitter," noted the second. "This will begin to bring in the younger generation, who so far have not adopted Twitter -- but they will."

Then, he paused for a moment, considering what the proper analogy would be for this precise moment in the develop of social media. "You know, it was really the hypertext link that defined the emergence of the web as a superior platform for interactive communication. And there is already an equivalent on Twitter -- the hash tag. When you think about it, the @ symbol came to define the Internet in the 90s; today the # symbol defines the emergence of social media. It's funny, two simply keys on any keyboard and they carry so much importance for all of us, and for the future."

The conversation went on, turning to Microsoft's inclusion of Tweets on Bing, and Google's coming "Wave," and the need for a certain convergence between Wikipedia and Twitter. But this is as much of the conversation as I feel comfortable divulging at this point, since there were several proprietary issues that then came to the fore.

I've had similar conversations with dozens of people the past few months, but rarely with anyone I respect more than these two. Every day, of course, I also hear from skeptics, who dismiss Twitter as just the latest in a long series of shooting stars.

My own instincts were to classify Twitter that way until earlier this year, when I began to notice the astonishing power of real-time information. Since I blog from a business perspective, part of my skepticism was also based in Twitter's lack of any recognizable business model.

The best evidence suggests that over the next few months Twitter's elusive business model will in fact emerge.  And it appears to be potentially an extremely lucrative one. But now, if you wll excuse me, I've got to get back to my Twitter feed...

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital,, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.