anywhere – 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.

Twitter Launches Facebook Connect Competitor, @Anywhere

I’ve long talked about the MVC model of the Building Block web.  Data Repositories like Amazon Simple Storage, Facebook Data Store, Google Data, and others comprise the Model of this new platform.  APIs like the Twitter API, the Facebook server-side APIs, or other REST-type APIs compose the Controllers of this web.  Then you have the View – something pretty much only Facebook and OpenSocial/Google Friend Connect have covered thus far.  The View enables developers to easily integrate and access code from a user’s Client, the web browser.  Today Twitter added their entry to that game, @Anywhere.

@Anywhere strives to provide a solution for a huge weakness in the Twitter API Platform thus far.  It provides an entire Javascript, Client-side platform for developers and website owners to integrate Twitter easily and simply right on top of their website, no server-side code involved.  This is the missing link Twitter has needed to have a truly competitive solution against Facebook’s Connect platform.

Facebook Connect relies on Javascript to provide an immersive experience into the Facebook environment right on top of any website owner’s site.  With a few lines of Javascript, and an HTML-like tag language called XFBML, website owners can pretty much copy and paste pieces of code in place and immediately have access to comments, become a fan boxes, post to their stream, and even more if you know a little Javascript as well.  It’s unclear if Twitter will be releasing an XFBML competitor (I’d love to help Twitter test if this becomes the case – I wrote the book on Facebook’s FBML), but Twitter is clearly going up against Facebook Connect to provide similar type tools, and I think it’s a very smart move.

I mentioned earlier I was excited about the entry of Josh Elman as product manager at Twitter.  I’m unclear if he had anything to do with this, but you can clearly see the Facebook influence in Twitter’s new API.  With not only Josh, but several others from the Facebook team now working at Twitter, you can bet they’ve compared and contrasted how they could obtain some of the millions of Facebook developers out there.  Making it as easy as possible is the smartest way to do this, and Twitter has already signed on several very big players in the Facebook Connect space, Huffington Post and Yahoo, to be launch partners in this effort.

In addition to those, the most significant partner that I think should not be ignored is Amazon.  Amazon, IMO, is the holy grail in Social E-Commerce, and despite not having a Facebook Connect solution, they seem willing to integrate Twitter into their environment.  Why they are choosing Twitter over Facebook is beyond me – maybe they have a Facebook deal in the works as well?

I’m very excited about this new announcement.  Soon, it will be easy for any developer to very seamlessly, in a single, well-understood language (Javascript), integrate Facebook and Twitter all on a single website with little effort.  As a developer, I’m drooling a bit over this.  I can’t wait to start playing with it.