Whether you love it, hate it, or don’t get it, Twitter is a thing of fascination on so many levels. It’s supposed to be a one-trick pony, designed for the restless, the narcissists, and the stalkers (pick one) to answer one simple question: “what are you doing?”
Ironically, it has managed to spawn more innovations and hype—clients, web applications, memes, contests, meetups—than any of the big, bloated social networks. This is interesting because Twitter is not just a “web application”, which, literally, is an application that exists on and uses the Web. It’s an activity taking on many different forms in scattered locations, whose very nature seems viral, and whose openness seems almost unprecedented.
Identity and Branding
Twitter has a stylized blue bird as its mascot. Although you don’t get to see it as often as its logotype, many Twitter apps have adopted the general idea of a bird to associate themselves with their mother app.
The birds don’t even have to be blue, they don’t even have to look like the original Twitter bird. And the Twitter homepage doesn’t even show it, just several bird-themed illustrations.
Twitter’s colors and images have also been adopted by 3rd-party applications. Patterned backgrounds are definitely “in vogue” once more.
The design elements we can easily associate with Twitter has been called the Twitter Identity Transference Syndrome, TwITS. It’s clearly in effect when someone calls a completely unrelated bird logo a Twitter rip-off.
Twitter users spend most of their time on their respective Twitter clients, whether it’s on the mobile phone, the Web, or the desktop. The most notable clients don’t vary greatly in features, although the biggest trend is integration with supporting Twitter applications like URL shorteners (more on that later), photo sharing, search, Hashtags, etc.
Snitter‘s users have created various custom themes, showing how versatile the Adobe AIR platform can be.
Now here’s a completely different way of interacting through Twitter. Botanicalls lets plants “send” updates to their owners via Twitter when they need to be watered.
Design and Development
People are constantly looking for new avenues for their design and development experiments. Twitter, with its casual, even playful, atmosphere is the answer. Novel ideas, lots of bold colors, and almost always there are vector-based illustrations below.
As an aside, one can always resort to mimicking the Twitter look. Twitterverse does not adopt the light blue color scheme but the logo and layout are a dead giveaway.
Twitterholic clearly admits in its footer that it “ripped directly, and we mean directly, from Twitter.com”. Stealing the look, no matter how blatant, is an acceptable means of associating itself with Twitter. It’s on the opposite end of the TwITS spectrum.
Ironically, Twitter’s extensibility has more than made up for its lack of features. The websites above are the best examples of how you can create “groups” within Twitter. zefrank thought Twitter would be the perfect venue for Color Wars, and the whole thing just grew into a life of its own.
- Hashtags lets you tag and track keywords within tweets.
- Quotably makes threaded conversations possible.
- Twubble finds your friends’ friends for you to follow.
- Twixxer provides photo and video sharing features.
Twitter search is also another feature that is being improved upon by 3rd-party services. Why isn’t Twitter’s search function enough?
Because tweets are limited to 140 characters only, Twitterers have to use URL shortening services when they share long links in their messages. Twitter uses TinyURL by default, but so many others have popped up since. URL shorteners have been around for a while, but Twitter is probably the web app that skyrocketed their popularity. I personally use is.gd as it is the shortest one I’ve seen, though I’m curious how other people choose theirs.
- nsfw.in – for websites that are not safe for work!
- linkbun.ch – for combining multiple websites into one
- rickroll.it – not limited to rickrolling people though!
For the “Twitter purists” who believe you should only tweet what you are doing, not what website you find interesting, then are you saying all the clever little Twitter apps shouldn’t exist? There are even half a dozen websites built solely to track the most buzzworthy links on Twitter:
And websites that rank Twitter users according to popularity:
Early birds (excuse the pun) in the Twitter game will fondly remember LOLcats serving as the website’s error messages. It was very crude compared to the rest of the look of the site, but people loved it. And because Twitter
went down a lot, many people saw and grew accustomed to it. They have since disappeared and have been replaced.
What is it about Twitter that’s got everyone a-twitter?