A key to how Twitter maintains our interest is that we can follow people as well as set up real-time exchanges between discoverable points. Not simply a way of monitoring brief posts, Twitter’s ability to spark and facilitate conversation has redefined the online experience for millions. Seven years since its introduction, it has also become a powerful reporting tool. We witnessed this most dramatically during the Arab Spring of 2011, where rapid, unfiltered documents of events galvanized public opinion worldwide.
Twitter’s success underscored how a system of mass-distributing very brief text-based messages reflected the public’s need for immediacy, especially on their mobile devices. It was only a matter of time before entrepreneurs would turn their sights on video-based messages. In fact, Twitter acquired the company Vine to be able to branch out in the very lucrative arena of video. It has experienced a few challenges since the start of the year, which were probably watched with some bemusement by Tout, another video tweeting startup with celebrity backers like Shaquille O’Neal. The recent launch of Brabble adds another competitor to the mix, the twist here being the ability to upload real-time video, picture, audio and text.
The goal with all three of these new companies is to convert all users of smart devices into “microcasters” who can build their own network of followers, and use video in much the same way they might use Twitter. Experiencing real-time video clips through mobile devices is simply the next step in personal technology.
The term “microcast” has been around for a while, referred to as “sending TV to individuals” (http://johntv.blogspot.com/2006/12/welcome-to-microcasting.html) in 2006 and then providing the title to Steve Gillmor’s prescient post on Techcrunch in 2008 (http://techcrunch.com/2008/11/16/microcasting/). In the latter piece, Gillmor notes that on the horizon there is:
“…a new kind of media alignment (where) video becomes a first-class Twitter object. Favorite network news such as Olbermann and Maddow create conversational chunks designed to be inserted into Twitter broadcasts and FriendFeed conversations.”
Now, as I write this, Twitter is experiencing a service outage that has users rolling their eyes and bemoaning poor infrastructure. To these users, adding video to the mix will seem like more of the same, where an overtaxed system moves in fits and starts attempting to handle massive volumes of data. This is a legitimate concern, and one that video tweeting app designers will have to deal with no matter how robust their system is. People will expect it to crash, so the bar will be set high from the outset.
However, the potential for widespread adoption makes for a compelling story, too. The benefits of immediate streaming video could be felt across a spectrum of professions, including medicine, law enforcement, and, of course, journalism. And where the power of Twitter is seen when people collect around an idea, video tweeting could clarify and amplify experiences in ways that words are not able to do.