On the first day of the Chirp developer conference, Twitter announced “Annotations”:
The feature will allow developers to “add any arbitrary metadata to any tweet in the system.” So, just like a tweet can today be transmitted along with information about which other tweet it was in reply to, or what location it came from, or what application it was created on, now Twitter will allow developers to make up new stuff. Twitter is looking to see how developers use Annotations before it creates any sort of taxonomy for them, Sarver said.
What can such metadata include? Apart from the obvious ones, let us consider possibilities:
- The number of retweets, faves, could be metadata
- Apps could use plugins to add an “influence-rank” to all your tweets, like your Klout score
- Apps could let you specify your Google Profile URL or Facebook URL and add that as metadata to your tweets
- Apps may move all links from your tweets to the metadata section, leaving you the full 140 characters for plain text
- Apps may move all media attachment links (pics/videos) to the metadata section
- Number of your followers, number of lists you are a member of, can be metadata for your tweets
Using these, apps can come up with interesting filters that increase relevance for my Twitter experience:
- Show me tweets from users above an influence-rank threshold
- Show me tweets from users who have at least x followers or x list memberships
- Show me tweets from a specific geo-location
- Only show me tweets that contain links or pics or videos
- There can be interesting mashups and visualizations based on such metadata.
As apparent from some examples from the top-of-my-head, there are lots of creative possibilities.
Annotations will be app-specific. Annotations devised by Tweetdeck will be incomprehensible to Seesmic and vice-versa. There is potential for vast fragmentation here, in the absence of a uniform taxonomy defined by Twitter.
I expect Twitter will wait to see what developers come up with and then absorb the best innovations in its native implementations. In the meantime, Annotations will increase “stickiness” of specific Twitter apps and may be used to lock-in users to certain apps.
Is this a good move on the part of Twitter? I don’t know. But in the absence of guidance from Twitter, this is a free-for-all that will hinder seamless interoperability between different Twitter clients, which may not be good for the ecosystem as a whole.