One of the ways the Web never ceases to surprise is its incessant ability to reduce things down to their simplest essence. For a growing number of applications, the Web has rejected complex SOAP-based web services integrations for the simpler style of integration known to techies as REST. Yet even RSS, the newsfeed format that was one of the first popular examples of REST in action, turns out to be too complex for some applications. This week Jeff Nolan (a fellow-member of the Enterprise Irregulars blogger network) posed the question Is Twitter Killing RSS?, having observed his own shift from following headlines and stories in an RSS reader to watching Twitter updates:
"Today I use the much improved Twitter search function to find profiles for the publications I like to read, following them and getting their content via links in tweets. For bloggers, the ability to follow provides not only the content updates in most cases but also the opportunity to interact with the authors and catch all their other updates that wouldn't even show up in RSS."
In this case, Twitter's enforced 140-character limit is the agent of reductionism, eliminating the old debate whether an RSS feed should contain the full body of an article or just a headline and short summary. With Twitter, you only have room for the headline and a foreshortened URL. But as Jeff mentions, you also get valuable contextual information because Twitter's architecture is much more aware of the real-time social graph than creaky old RSS ever managed.
The other thing about Twitter is that ordinary people can use it you don't even have to have a blog to open a Twitter account and therefore the potential for real-time search (ie, search for what people are talking about right now) is becoming of huge interest to everyone from the news-hungry to marketing and customer service teams.
No wonder there are strong rumors (probably unfounded) that Google is about to acquire Twitter. What's more likely in my view is that Google and Twitter are talking revenue streams in particular related to today's revelations that Google is testing a mashup of Twitter feeds with Google ads. Here's further validation of Twitter's 140-character format as a superb vehicle for getting a succinct message out into all kinds of destinations where people pay attention so useful that some companies are prepared to pay for it.