The good folks (partial list) at Twitter are doing their best to catch up with the emergent behaviors and ad-hoc constructs that rise from user innovation. These last couple of weeks we had announcement of official support for Retweet (mock from the Twitter blog below) as well as location data for individual posts.
While both are great, Twitter will only be ready to take over the web when they official adopt the next feature in line: support for adult-material spammers to add everybody as their follower at the same time.
Or, more importantly, hashtags.
A first-class support of hashtags will be the final nail in the coffin of Twitter taking over content everywhere (the Web, the world, the old media, TV, everything). Hashtags support would not only mean that a user can flag the topic of their post (#iran), saving a few characters on the way. Solid support for hashtags would mean that any user would be able to semantically tie their tweets to any type of object, virtual or real. Couple that with the flexibility of the Twitter system, and you have a platform where anyone can “attach a note” to anything, anywhere, anytime.
Examples? But of course. My tweet is about Society Coffee in Harlem. My tweet is about Sony Playstation III. It’s about the first episode of the Mad Men latest season. My tweet is about Rutgers SC&I. My tweet is about the web page of Rutgers SC&I. My tweet is about the New York Times article about Retweets. My tweet is about Ayman Shamma. My tweet is about Calexico.
Wait, how would that be different than just adding the hashtags in the text (e.g., #societycoffee)?. Well, Twitter people are smart. And they are friends of the good folks at Flickr. They will surely support Machine tags a-la Aaron‘s.
Machine tags will allow a much more robust (read: semantic) connection between the hashtag and the object discussed. I will still be saying #AymanShamma, but the system will store #facebook:user=111111 (or #twitter:user=22222). I will be saying “Calexico live in Barbi Tel Aviv” and the system will store #lastfm:event=33333 (Flickr’s last.fm machine tag now sports 1.2 million photos with a last.fm machine tag). Similarly, whether it’s a product name, a web page, a school name… a strong Twitter and client implementations can help users assign exact semantics (when they so desire) to any post.
Especially with location.
Context aware Twitter clients are a step away of being able to provide the users with the power to comment on anything, anywhere. I am pulling my iPhone out in a restaurant. My Twitter clients knows where I am, and gets IDs of nearby restaurants from Yelp. The client lets me select the restaurant I am in (or guesses it automatically based on the text and location). My post is now tied to the semantic object that is that restaurant (identified by Yelp ID, #yelp:biz=society-coffee-new-york-2) instead of just matching the text of the restaurant name (“Society Coffee” would not help much in matching and search tasks).
The Twitter API would surely allow other players to “read” all this content. Companies could show tweets about their products on the product page (or even ask users to tweet with #REI:productid=444444). If you are in a live event, a big screen can show all the content tagged #lastfm:event=555555 (which will be easy for any user to add to their post using their location- or calender-aware client). And more.
“If you liked this painting tweet #moma:paintingid=6666666″. We might see a lot more of these in the future. Twitter will bring on the object web. Just hash it out already!
p.s. Of course, our ZoneTag already did all these things (on Flickr) by 2007.