Twitter is the messaging system we didn’t know we needed until we had it, says co-founder Biz Stone on the Stephen Colbert show. Mike Arrington at TechCrunch says Twitter is in acquisition discussions with Google, after turning down a rumored $500M offer from Facebook. TechMeme, my morning tech newspaper, has lots of stories on the Google rumor. Twitter is another proof point that valuation is not about how may lines of code, or how difficult it is to recreate, it is about deep audience engagement. Code can be replicated in a weekend, audiences can’t.
Consider the cases of Jaiku, similar to Twitter and acquired by Google in 2007, and Orkut developed by Google, and similar to MySpace and Facebook. Google Video versus YouTube is another example. These services had feature sets similar to their competitors and excellent technology, but they never came close to duplicating the audience success of Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. It is about the social connection with the audience…not about the technology.
We have all heard the tech cognoscenti say of a new emerging product “I could code that up in a weekend”, dismissing it as trivial. It has been said of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and many others. While it is true that the product is simple and the coding is relatively simple compared to complex enterprise applications, crystallizing the idea and building the audience is a rare and special event.
Good ideas are only obvious and trivial after the fact. As Biz Stone says “Twitter is the messaging service we didn’t know we needed, until we had it”. Twitter has around 10M users now and is growing at about 20% per month. Facebook has around 190M users and still growing. There is a lot of growth headroom for Twitter. There are 4 billion cell phones around the world that are natural users for Twitter. Combining Twitter web users and cell phone users into a world wide communication network is a pretty powerful and lucrative idea. It is all about creating an environment where a user community can connect and socialize. It isn’t about complexity or lines of code.
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