In previous articles we studied the evolution of the Internet Society. Our theory is that an internet tool, when it first appears, is like the cast of a TV show; its personality isn’t very well defined at first. But as time goes by and viewers start watching the show, the characters’ personalities take on new proportions (have you ever compared the first episodes of Friends to the final ones? Joey undergoes a constant ‘dumbing down’ process as the series progresses.)
As more users watch what’s happening on Twitter, it’s character is taking on new proportions. For example, Twitter has recently released a feature in which you can follow lists. Sure, this is something avid users have been wanting for a while and is indeed a valuable add-on, but what’s most revealing is how this small functionality basically defines a little better what Twitter is exactly for – Twitter as an aggregator of links related to common interests for a user (a.k.a. the Internet Yellow Pages).
Lists basically allow a user to gather their followed users into, well lists. These lists can be followed individually or you can add all the users to the regular timeline as you always had on Twitter. But the most interesting thing is that you can share your lists and a user can choose to follow the exact same list. It means you are no longer following a person – you are following a theme or a topic. Which leads us to the point – what if users stop following other users because they have relevant content and start following a list where what matters is what the list as a whole broadcasts and not the individual valor of the broadcaster himself? Twitter becoming less a “What are you doing?” and more a “What is your group doing?”. You can probably still measure the interest rating of a user by his following/followers ratio, but now you have a new metric – how many list are you part of? What are those lists about? Why are you part of the list? And are you an active member of the list or are you there for aggregation purposes?
Sure, Twitter lists are useful. But what strikes us as an interesting study is the shift from the human islands of Twitterland to Content Continents built by the content the users generate. After all, we live in a Content Society. And in this realm, Twitter just took one more step from plain generalist micro-blogging into a fully defined Social Network that can be set completely apart from all the others by focusing not on apps, photos or moods, but by content sharing in its purest form.