Twitter's confusing @anywhere announcement: An attempt at an explanation

If you don't understand what Twitter's @anywhere announcement Monday was all about, you're not alone. Twitter has not done a very good job of communicating. I've read eight blogs and articles about the announcement. I think I have it figured out, but I couldn't swear to it. Here's what I think @anywhere is.

It seems to be pretty simple, actually: a way to interact with Twitter while using another Web site, says PCWorld, adding:

When users browse a site that implements @anywhere, people and brands with Twitter accounts will appear as hyperlinks. Hovering over the hyperlink will reveal a box with that person or brand's Twitter info and most recent Tweet (clicking on the hyperlink will take you directly to their Twitter profile).

@anywhere will extend the "hovercards" implemented by Twitter recently, says VentureBeat ("Twitter launches 'At Anywhere' platform, integrates tweets, profiles across the web").

What is @anywhere?

Complete Twitter coverage

Hovercards now work like this: If you go to Twitter.com, and hover over the name of a user, you'll see a pop-up that gives you the user's name, location, and clickable tools for following, unfollowing, @mentioning, and other actions involving that user.

Making the same capabilities available outside of Twitter.com makes sense. This publication, for example, might include an @anywhere link on an article author's byline. Hover over the link, and you'll get the option to follow that author's tweets. The headline of an article might include an @anywhere link that allows you to tweet the article.

You can do those things pretty easily now, but they require that the user navigate away from the page. That interrupts the user's concentration and, more important from a Web site publisher's perspective, it pulls the user away from their site and off somewhere else.

"The idea is to make Twitter content more widely and readily available throughout the Web, so that people can access 'tweets' and feeds outside of Twitter.com and of third-party Twitter applications," says my colleague Juan Carlos Perez here at Computerworld ("Twitter to simplify integration of tweets into Web sites")

Partners will include Amazon, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, Digg, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, and YouTube, says Twitter on its blog announcing @anywhere.

That seems nice and useful to me, but hardly revolutionary. Twitter seems to think it is revolutionary. It could be this is simply hype. Or it could be I don't know what's going on.

You'll also be able to sign into third-party Web sites with your Twitter ID, says the blog Search Engine Land. That statement confuses me, because you can already do that, either by telling the third-party site your username and password, or using the OAuth protocol.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about this service. I've got a request for an interview in to Twitter, if I get it, I'll let you know. And you can follow @anywhere on Twitter for more information.

ALSO: Why does Twitter's @anywhere have to be so cryptic?

Follow @mitchwagner on Twitter.

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