I would like to continue with a comment I wrote in Paul’s blog about the fact that Twitter Japan is planning to charge for its service. Since the first moment everybody speculates about the future of twitter. Is it going to be profitable? how long will it survive? what is the real future of it? and so on.
The real value of twitter is based on its data. Millions of people write everyday thoughts, facts, links, ads, spam, replay to others conversations and so forth. Millions of people, from all over the world, using different languages, from different cultural backgrounds, speaking freely.
Now let’s imagine this. We have a web site, with a really simple form and a submit button. Saying:
Hi! Could you please tell me what you are thinking, what do you like and dislike? please share your links, share your thoughts, and do it several times per day and also please try to convince your friends to join. This is free, in fact we won’t pay you but you will pay us with information. We are a company and of course we have to produce money, and we will do it with your data, because we can sell that data and we can perform analysis on that data. So please, submit that info and we will give you back nothing. Just for free, isn’t it cool?
So after reading that… will you use that service? Of course not!!
So the idea is, let’s collect people’s data, and let’s do it in an spontaneous way, they will just submit everything they want. We don’t want to put restrictions because we also want to analyze human patterns and thousands of factors related to human behavior. Well we don’t want to learn how human being are just for biological or psychological reasons, we want to understand humans in a better way to be able to improve our clients marketing skills. Of course they won’t sell your private data, like your email, for example, in fact, who cares about your email or address or whatever? The important is: the language you speak, the colors you choose from the different layouts available, where you are and your shared thoughts!
So to make people do that let’s give them something back. Let’s provide a social network. That thing that is in vogue now with all that web2.0 “movement” so they will share their thoughts with us and at the same time we will give them some entertainment. We also let them promote themselves, so some people and companies can use our service as a marketing tool and share with us their strategies :) Well let’s help presidents and religious leaders as well, so we also collect that data.
Do you understand now where is the real value of twitter? Its data!
So for example, a company wants to launch a new product but they want to do some analysis first to try to make some prediction about the success of their possible future inversion. Let’s go and ask twitter. They can do the analysis for them or they can just sell some piece of raw data to be analyzed by themselves. The possibilities are infinite, the real value is that raw data to analyze and manipulate. That data has a radiography of the status of the world, it’s not only a marketing tool it could be used as a political or religion toll as well as a tool to understand actual tendencies.
There is a big difference between the data collected by twitter and the data that could be collected form the internet. Blogs, forums, web sites and so forth provide information about a specific topic. I had to stop many times and do some self reflexive thinking before I wrote this post because I want to transmit what I think in a proper way to make it understandable to everybody. This process is specially stronger when I’m not forced to do it in 140 characters. The common content that you can find in internet already passed through a meditation process that filter the spontaneity and focus on a specific target. Twitter is one of the most spontaneous social networks out there and that’s because we only have 140 characters; it’s not the number by itself but it’s the concept that we have a tiny space to write what we think so we can only think about thoughts, pills of information, ready and fast thinking that just pop-up in our minds and then we try to fit it in that space.
That is the real potential of all social networks, the data they collect and the analysis and results that could be achieved with that information. The ads in those networks only pay the electricity and the salary for engineers. The data they collect is the real value and of course the data generators, the data generation engine, that is users. But don’t misunderstand it. Users are important for two reasons, one is the data they generate and second their presence creates the excuse to convince other companies to pay to put ads that will generate the income to support the infrastructure. But all of this turn around a central core “data“.
I think that twitter Japan should be free, anyway it’s not the first time that Japan is used as an experimental platform. Let’s see if the data generated after and before the twitter-free age differ and change in value.