Twitter’s @anywhere and Why it May Be Too Techie for Their Audience – Stay N Alive

Twitter’s @anywhere and Why it May Be Too Techie for Their Audience

In just one day, we’ll all be sitting in front of Ev Williams and Biz Stone as they announce Twitter’s new Facebook Connect competitor, @anywhere.  This is Twitter’s big statement in the developer ecosystem, stating that they are shifting from a script and backend-focused model of developer integration, to a very front-end, javascript-centered focus that centers around any brand or developer’s own site.  However, I’m worried that Twitter may actually be focusing too much on developers, considering their audience of large brands.

I wondered, just after @anywhere was announced at South-by-Soutwest in Austin, TX, how similar @anywhere would be to Facebook Connect.  Facebook Connect, a Javascript-focused set of libraries that sits on top of any website, enables just about any brand manager, marketer, or even developer from the new to the very advanced to simply copy and paste a piece of code and have it immediately create widgets that integrate tightly with the Facebook environment.  With Facebook Connect also comes a tag language, called FBML (I wrote the book for O’Reilly about it), which enables HTML-like tags to be placed anywhere on a website and also get similar functionality.  So basically, no Javascript knowledge is required.  Know how to write a little HTML?  You can integrate Facebook Connect into your website.  At least that’s the message Facebook wants to send to Marketers and Brand Managers (and it’s true how simple it is).

Twitter seems to have the same audience in mind for their @anywhere platform.  After just launching an Ad platform, you can bet more Enterprise features are about to be announced very likely at Twitter’s Chirp conference along with developer tie-ins to those features.  Twitter wants the brands just as bad as Facebook does.  Running a site that targets Brands, I know first hands that the Brands are where the money is.  Enterprise, and contractual relationships with big companies and brands is big money in this industry.  Twitter wants to be on each and every one of these major websites – that’s why they’re launching @anywhere.

I’m worried that Twitter is trying too much to please developers in this case though.  In a conversation I had with Ryan Sarver back in March, he asked what questions we had about @anywhere.  I asked if it would have an FBML-like tag syntax.  His answer surprised me:

“@Jesse think more @jquery than FBML 🙂 very developer-friendly”

I’m not going to say how, but I’ve been looking at some pieces of the @anywhere Javascript source recently and he’s right.  It’s a very jQuery-focused platform.  The problem with jQuery is no marketer or Brand manager in their right mind is going to want to touch it.  It’s too difficult to understand.  It’s going to take developers to convince the marketers, and I’m just not sure that’s the right approach.  Working with large organizations I know how it works – a marketer or product manager can’t get past the bureaucracy to bring a developer onto their project, so they try to do it themselves.  With Twitter’s jQuery approach, none of these guys will even try.

We’ll see what actually gets announced, but if I’m right, Twitter should really consider adding on a tag-based language on top of all of this.  Something that looks like HTML is going to be much simpler to understand than jQuery in the eyes of a marketer that just wants to try this stuff out.  I’m not sure this is the right approach, but we’ll see.

One good thing we can say about all this is that jQuery, as a framework, is going to have an amazing day in the sun on Wednesday.  Let’s hope they can get the developers to sell this to the big guys like they hope.

8 thoughts on “Twitter’s @anywhere and Why it May Be Too Techie for Their Audience

  1. For most major components of @anywhere, it will be as easy as it was to drop that nice Twitter widget on the side of this webpage. Which ultimately, is just a copy/paste effort.

  2. Dustin, you are probably correct. I hope they build wizards to help with
    that. I do think the tag language is still a bit more friendly for those
    wanting to get their hands a bit dirtier, while not too dirty.

  3. Jesse, what does this mean to the Twitter user who is not a brand? I use FB Connect on my own blog, but I don't know if is any real help to me; it's just a convenience to my visitors. And what's the difference between @anywhere and the other ways of signing in using your Twitter ID? I'm not a developer:-)

  4. Francine, it basically means you will be able to copy simple Javascript and
    paste it on your blog to get features such as hoverable Twitter names,
    access to Twitter search, and even follow the user, straight from your blog.
    Before all this had to be done from the server side with a few exceptions.

    That said, there's still not a lot we know about it. The code I've looked
    it is even a bit unclear, so it's hard to tell for sure.

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