When Twitter first hit my radar screen in 2007 sometime, I (like many others) immediately dismissed it as a gimmicky little time-waster with no real value. I mean, a message limit of 140 characters? Lame. And what was it for? Nothing, apparently. It was like the Facebook status message, but all by itself, with no other services or features around it. What could possibly be the point? As we’ve seen since, of course, there are any number of points to Twitter, a service that “is what you make of it,” as a New York Times piece put it recently.

I also wondered why the Twitter team didn’t include more features, and why they left it up to external services to do things like search (which they eventually acquired by buying Summize). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the smallness and lack of features is actually a positive, not a negative. What Twitter did was strip all the clutter of many social networks away and pare things down to their essence.

A tweet is like the smallest possible building block of online interaction — the atom of social media (an idea I wish I could claim was mine, but appears to have occurred to others as well). With those atoms, plenty of other services have sprung up to build larger structures.

(read the rest of this post at GigaOm)

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

14 Responses to “Social atoms and the Twitter ecosystem”
  1. If “Twitter is what you make of it”, some people are making it very interesting:

  2. @mathewi — Also, it's damned hard to embed a virus into 140 characters. So people feel a lot more comfy reading what strangers have to say. IMHO the safety of the interaction is as important as the building block. The lack of structure and context means people can interpret those 140 characters variously as a conversation, a way to point at something, or a bumper sticker. Not knowing what it's for turns out to be a good thing.

  3. thanks for the info… I'm already following the scorts links hehehe

  4. Twitter make me get trouble lately with lots of spammy message

  5. I support your idea

  6. Especially when it comes to mobile, i think the creation of omission is going to be where it's at.

    Wrote a post a while back about that.


  7. […] Social atoms and the Twitter ecosystem (mathewingram.com) […]

  8. […] Social atoms and the Twitter ecosystem (mathewingram.com) […]

  9. Good read. I have made a twitter post about this. Hope others find it as interesting as I did.

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