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Mar 2009

Why do people use Twitter?

To Internet lovers who have yet to jump on the Twitter bandwagon, one question constantly emerges:  why do people use Twitter?  At first, Twitter seemed like a simple stream of Facebook’s ‘status updates’ without any other features.  I couldn’t understand why ‘tweeting’ was catching on, so I decided to spend an hour visiting Twitter pages in an attempt to understand how and why people use the service.

I ended up getting a little addicted.  Ironic, I know.

As far as I can see, Twitter’s main distinguishing factor is its enabling of asymmetric relationships: I can connect to you even if you don’t connect to me.  The power of this idea allows users a unique experience when compared to something like LinkedIn or Facebook.  For instance, I was able to watch an interaction between two musicians I admire, Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Courtney Taylor (of The Dandy Warhols), without either of them having to approve.  I ‘follow’ them, but they don’t ‘follow’ me.  This structure allows thinkers and content publishers to promote their work, ideas and day-to-day thoughts to thousands of fans without having to connect directly to each of them.

Facebook’s symmetric ‘friend” structure allows no such freedom; users are forced into bidirectional social interactions at every turn.  The Facebook team has recognized this and is attempting to implement a similar interaction by allowing content creators the ability to make ‘pages’ where users can become ‘fans’, but having this asymmetry inherent in Twitter’s architecture allows it to satisfy the particular needs of content creators with much more grace and simplicity.

I may be a beginner to Twitter, but as far as I can tell, it seems much more useful to connect with people you don’t know than with people you do know.  Are you a power user of Twitter?  Correct me if I’m wrong @jayvidyarthi.

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