The idea is to allow people to curate lists of Twitter accounts. For example, you could create a list of the funniest Twitter accounts of all time, athletes, local businesses, friends, or any compilation that makes sense.
Yes, I know, a bombastic title, but telling. It’s clear we are in the age of RSS redux, bite-sized syndication for the masses. IE/FireFox/Safari couldn’t mainstream RSS, neither could MyYahoo, Bloglines, Pageflakes/Netvibes, Technorati, or even the best-of-breed web RSS app, Google Reader. It took little Twitter to get the form factor right for individual syndication, and now they want to reinvent OPML aka the blogroll. "And the old shall become new again."
I’m not complaining. It’s yet another brilliant example of externalized innovation by Twitter, and they’ve wisely chosen the right item to steal from 3rd party devs (TweetDeck, Seesmic, PeopleBrowsr, etc.) to further mainstream their product. So, while Twitter Search allows us to aggregate ideas or information via entity (people, places, things) detection, Lists allows us to aggregate and syndicate people, something that never quite made it out of the primordial ooze stage for RSS and never even existed in social networking proper. Now, I haven’t seen the API yet, but imagine if you could use Lists to pull together multiple Twitter Searches, or better yet, execute Twitter Searches against given Lists (or Lists of Lists for the algorithmically inclined). What we’re seeing here is the power of abstraction and applying prior atomic functions against the arbitrary aggregate. What Twitter Search disassembles, Lists reassembles.
My prediction (and it’s a safe one) is that most people (>85%) will never create a list other than their following and follower lists, which is in line with curator vs. consumer numbers. However, there will be an active, dislocated, niche focused, minority contingent of domain experts creating, leveraging and repurposing Lists in quantity.
In some ways, this seems like a bit of a defensive move against aggregated threats from SuperFeedr, RSScloud, and even Google Wave on top of Google Reader. There’s still value on the table from a delivery perspective (true multicast vs. polling, etc.), but Twitter, with Retweet and Lists, is inching toward covering their bases from the data model perspective.
Will Twitter Lists signal the shift of value from quantity to quality for followers/following? TBD.
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