As Twitter Matures, Expect “Expanded Tweets”

A few days ago, “George” from Seinfeld penned an “extended tweet” about his views on gun control in the U.S. in the wake of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. That piece of content, which went viral because of who the author was and its form, was also significant for potentially showing the future of content and multi-media creation on Twitter. Today, content creators are free to simply tweet (and many do) without linking to any external media. Twitter acts as a social network, broadcast network, and distribution network. For example, if you’re reading this, you’ve likely been exposed to this piece through a link on Twitter, but I’m hosting my own content so that I can control its fate.

This may not be the case for the future of Twitter. While I’ll keep my own site and blog, earlier this year Twitter purchased a small Y Combinator company called Posterous, which from its beginnings was akin to Tumblr, built with a high sense of design, speed, and utility. Ultimately, they lost the traffic and war for network effects to Tumblr and WordPress, but their infrastructure and flow still carry value. I can imagine a Twitter world where “Extended Tweets” exist for writers, reporters, and casual content creators to upload text, images, video, and other content inline within the Twitter experience (like Jason Alexander did). Twitter has also demonstrated a tendency to behave this way, as exhibited by the creation of their own photo-hosting partnership with Photobucket and more recent issues with Instagram “find a friend” API limits.

The Posterous technology and interface could provide Twitter with a powerful inline offering for more Tumblr-like content-creation to occur right within their own walled gardens, much like Facebook’s fan pages offer brands today. Expect them to offer free hosting, like Tumblr, and also allow users to “import” their data/media to house it all within Twitter. Specifically, imagine the use-case for a foreign correspondent reporter who currently needs to file stories on the go for BBC. That reporter has to log into a terminal and upload content, usually on a laptop or desktop, and then it’s pumped back into Twitter (and other social media channels) for distribution. In the future, this reporter could just report from the frontline, via email or from a mobile app (Posterous design for mobile is incredible), and create a more efficient flow for a wide variety of content-creators. When you look at Twitter this way, you begin to realize that despite the chorus of armchair analysts who beat the “Will they IPO?” drum, it’s really early days, and the future is not only disruptive, but potentially even brighter.

Haywire is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2014 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus