After returning to Twitter after a week-long break, I’ve had the chance to look at the service with a freshened perspective. Twitter needs to stay simple – that’s what drives its success. Nevertheless, I believe Twitter needs to mature and provide exploits of its service. While the basics of Twitter aught to remain, Twitter, Inc. can build a wider ecosystem around those basics which could make it a true contender as an important part of the Web.
Services like Posterous and Friendfeed offer features such as replying via email. Although third-parties could develop similar features via Twitter’s API, it’s time that Twitter mature a bit. If Twitter plays its cards right, it could offer itself as much more than just as the modern equivalent of a telecommunications utility (which it is).
- Email content, replies, DMs. We should have an option to respond to replies & DMs via email. There are services out there such as Topify but they don’t provide the most secure methods.
- Constraining tweets to certain followers. For example, if I want to tweet something that only interests a particular group of followers, I should have an option to limit a tweet to that meta tag. Twitter already offers meta data (it time stamp, the application the tweet was sent from, etc.). Such an option would help harness and focus Twitter’s connection engine.
- Geotagged tweets. Similar to constraining to tagged followers, Chris Brogan offers us a way to limit Twitter to location-focused tweeting. Chris refers to this as Geopocketing.
- Scheduling recurring tweets (to self account for reminders, etc.) Currently, Twitter restrains scheduling of tweets to prevent abuse. But as it gains better control over spam, options to legitimate uses of scheduling need to be incorporated.
- Autoreply feature (within limits). Automating Twitter isn’t always the best thing to do, but there are times when it’s needed. If I’m away from Twitter, an out-of-office feature would be nice for public replies.
- Pro accounts for Enterprise management should incorporate meta data for multiple users. I imagine as Twitter expands in its ubiquity, companies and other organizations will need multiple users for the same account. Metadata on tweets with the individual who sent the tweet would improve customer service. There are third-party clients like Co-Tweet that enable multiple users, but having user-specific metadata would offer better customer service options.
- List notifications. When a user is added to a list, there should be a notification. This is no different than a follow notification. It gives users more control and helps to identify and manage spam.
- Improved follow management – the email notifications should add much more data about followers. FriendFeed offers a great model.
- Return @ reply viewing feature. Twitter used to offer a “see all replies” feature which users could turn on. It allowed us to view all tweets, including replies to people you weren’t following. It added to the social serendipity of Twitter.
- Subdomain accounts to follow specialized tweets. For organizations which use multiple Twitter accounts, Twitter should offer sub-domains which provide more information about the organization’s Twitter presence: a page which offers TOS guidelines, all Twitter accounts, information on employees on Twitter, etc.
- Security – cell phone activation, verification (Twitter does have this, but I’ve noticed that it’s not offered consistently – could be a glitch).
- Twitter should also build sub-domains that help extend conversation. One of the things that made Friendfeed a powerful social aggregation was the ability to comment on posts and share those posts across one’s social graph. If Twitter could install a sub-domain where conversations around tweets could be consolidated, it would boost Twitter’s presence as a social medium giant. It could actually give Facebook some competition. Twitter needs to extend its Web real-estate – the basic service may not be best provided on its web site, but these additional services would bring users (and relevant advertisers) back.
Twitter could make improvements and refinements such as these without compromising the powerful simplicity of the 140 character cocktail party. Amateur hour is over for Twitter, Inc. It’s got more than $150 million of venture capital to recoup (actually more when you factor investor discount rates and time). It’s not going to get close to that if it just lets Google and Bing usurp its real-time firehose without building on its remarkable connectivity machine.
What do you think? What features would you like to see added to Twitter?
*This blog post was originally published at Phil Baumann*