TWTRCON DC ’09 and Twitter’s Future

“I don’t see where Twitter will get its next one million users,” chirped Steve Rubel at the final TWTRCON DC ’09 panel featuring him, Rohit Bhargava, Frank Gruber, and Clay Johnson.

Steve believes sites like Facebook are the ones that are prepped for larger growth. Yet, he has been surprised by the way that Twitter has been able to continue to innovate and grab attention, pointing to Tweetie 2 as a recent example. Of course, Tweetie 2 was not made by Twitter. It’s arguable whether or not the greatest innovations of Twitter are being created by them (e.g., their forthcoming lists) or by those using its API as a platform.

That, in some ways, is related to the main takeaway from TWTRCON DC. Ultimately, it wasn’t a conference about learning to use Twitter. Rather, it was one showcasing how people and organizations from different backgrounds and industries are actually using it. Twitter for business, non-profits, government, etc. are all possible because of Twitter as a platform.

Major destination sites emerged at the birth of the consumer web. Amazon is known for books (and now more generally, E-tail), eBay for being a secondary market, Google for search, and Yahoo! for content. A number of second generation “Web 2.0″ sites have also arrived. Facebook is the current leader in being the online social graph. Wikipedia is where people go to look up information. Craigslist is the definitive online classified listing and the strangest monopoly in history. Where does Twitter fit in the mix?

Clearly, Twitter represents a type of identity management and social graph. It allows people to search for information, although information of a different nature (real-time). Many organizations are using Twitter for recruiting and job postings. It’s touching on many of the strengths, features, and focus of these more traditionally established destination sites yet it was not built to replace them.

The future of Twitter is in how people are using it now – as a platform. Look at how the practioners of TWTRCON (i.e., not the pundits) think about Twitter. It’s a means for them to connect, market, serve, donate, analyze, find, employ, interact, and more with those who have a mutual interest in doing so. The future of Twitter is in it facilitating the pulse of the planet. Whether it can reach that point and overcome challenges like getting the next million users or if we should want it to are two topics for another discussion. In the meantime, TWTRCON held a great conference, highlighting how people and companies are using Twitter to currently transform the way we live and work both on and offline.