Earlier this week, Twitter announced it would support the Do Not Track mechanism in Mozilla Firefox browsers, becoming the only major social network to publicly implement DNT. Granted, Twitter itself doesn't do much tracking -- Google Analytics appears to be the only third-party tracking software running on the site. But your Twitter identity can be used as a log-in for many sites, as well as any site where you've decided to tweet out a link to a story. For example, Abine's DoNotTrackPlus software informs me I'm linked to 770 other sites via Twitter. That's a nice chunk of my Web surfing history right there.
There are two reasons why Twitter has survived and even thrived in the shadow of much bigger competitors. The first one: Unlike Facebook and Google, it has resisted the temptation to belly up to the all-you-can-eat feature buffet. Even when Twitter underwent major reconstructive surgery last winter, it retained most of its elegant simplicity. By contrast, I can't log onto Facebook or run a Google search without encountering some annoying new feature cluttering up the page.
The second reason is mobile. If you've ever tried to use Facebook or Google+ on a mobile device, you know how hard they suck. From the very beginning, though, Twitter was designed to be as simple and nimble as text messaging -- hence the 140-character limit. Twitter is perfect for the mobile Internet, where information is transmitted in small, rapid bursts. Facebook and Google? Not so much. As we all know, the future of the InterWebs is mobile.
True, Twitter has yet to establish a revenue model that seems sustainable. It's still rife with spammers and self-promoters, though it has begun to do a much better job of booting the spammers than any other service I've ever used. There's no splashy IPO on the horizon. The only Twitter millionaires are the ones who were that rich when they walked in the door. Nobody's likely to make a movie about how the company was founded.
Yet, Twitter is really the Web service to watch -- not that other social network that's been soaking up all the headlines today.
Would you buy Twitter stock? And if so, how much would you be willing to pay? Bid for shares below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "The world's hottest social network isn't Facebook," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.