Twitter's @anywhere could usher in big improvements
IDG News Service - Many South by Southwest attendees reportedly walked out halfway through the keynote appearance by Twitter CEO Evan Williams this week citing boredom, but the announcement he made on stage deserves careful attention, according to industry experts.
Williams unveiled @anywhere, which the company describes as a new set of frameworks to make it extremely simple for Web site publishers to integrate Twitter data and features into their sites.
Although @anywhere isn't yet available, it could have a significant impact on solidifying Twitter's position as the de facto medium for real-time updates online as well as paving the way for the company's much-awaited advertising platform, analysts say.
In addition, @anywhere could give Twitter a big push toward becoming a mainstream communications service and help spur engagement among existing users, many of whom leave their accounts dormant shortly after signing up.
Coupled with the opportunities for usage growth and revenue generation, @anywhere also presents some risks, namely that its content will clutter participating Web sites if it's not well-calibrated and that demand for it will overwhelm Twitter's servers and trigger downtime, according to analysts.
For now, Twitter has assembled a list of big-name initial partners, including Amazon, AdAge, Microsoft's Bing, eBay, The Huffington Post, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, Yahoo and Google's YouTube.
"We're trying to make it easier for sites to more deeply integrate Twitter functionality," said Jessica Verrilli, a Twitter associate who works on business and corporate development initiatives.
With @anywhere, it will be easier for Web publishers to let visitors add contacts to follow on Twitter, post "tweets," sign into Twitter and create an account, all without leaving the publisher sites.
In addition, @anywhere introduces hover cards, which let Web site visitors hover their cursors over content on Web pages and see Twitter data or actions they can perform right from there, she said.
Ray Wang, an analyst with Altimeter Group, sees @anywhere as the foundation for the advertising platform that Twitter has said it is working on.
For Twitter to monetize its service through advertising, it must sharpen its grasp of its user base's behavior online, and creating bridges into external Web sites helps with that.
"The value is understanding the relationships people have across different Web properties. Those relationships provide information and data that can be used to anticipate what consumers want and will be doing," Wang said.
"Just having a Twitter handle is interesting, but what's more valuable to companies and organizations is being able to tie a Twitter handle back to an account ID or back to knowing whether that user is a customer or not," he added.
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