Unless you have been living under a rock for the past six months, you have probably heard of Twitter. Developed with Ruby on Rails, it has now hit the big time, with many companies offering client versions of Twitter, so that you don’t have to keep the Twitter web page open to record your deepest thoughts, which you can share with your community/ies.
Technically speaking, there is not a whole lot of difference between Twitter and many other IM clients, including Tencent’s QQ, the immensely popular Chinese IM client. If there is any difference, it is that Twitter makes it possible for dispersed communities to keep track of each others’ activities. In contrast, the IM clients are mainly Web 1.0 tools which enable people to find and contact each other to meet offline. QQ, for instance, is a great enabler for that popular activity which we shall call “dating” in China.
The difference between Twitter and the Web 1.0 IM clients is not so much in the technology, as in the way people handle relationships. Put simply, the lines between offline and online relationships are blurring, and in many cases, more people spend more time online than they do offline. For this reason, their online communities are gaining value, and in a few cases, are assuming primary value, while their offline relationships become secondary.
This was not the case for most of the Web 1.0 IM clients.
From the business perspective, this means that businesses will have to pay even more attention to what is going on online, as I have mentioned in my previous post.
In China, many people do not have email addresses, instead they rely on QQ ID numbers to identify each other. Walk into any Chinese working area (including Starbucks and any other area which provides free Wifi) and chances are you will see that almost every screen has a QQ or Windows IM client window open.
And they are using it for business, not just personal gossip.
So, the ultimate test of whether Twitter becomes the American QQ is whether American’s use it for business, not just social chatting.
If that happens, the American Internet will suddenly look a lot more like the Chinese Internet.