What's Your Status?

Monday, 18 September 2006

Twitter was in part created because we thought the increasing amount of folks using the status message field in their IM client to indirectly communicate with friends indicated a potential need or market for a service built around that sort of use case. Check out the Wikipedia entry on Status message (IM):

A status message is a function of some instant messaging applications whereby a user may post a message that appears automatically to other users if they attempt to make contact. It is analogous to the voice message in an answering machine or voice mail system. However, status messages may be displayed even if the person is present. They are often updated much more frequently than messages in answering machines, and thus may serve as a means of instant, limited “publication” or indirect communication.

Whereas answering machine or voice mail messages often have a generic greeting to leave a message, status messages more often contain a description of where the person is at the moment or what they are doing. Because most instant messaging clients indicate to users when their online contacts are away before they send a message, more often than not away messages are meant to be read in lieu of sending a message, rather than a response. Away messages are not to be confused with idle messages, which is an automatic reply to a message when the messaging client has determined that the replier is not at his or her computer.

Particularly among younger users, status messages are likely to contain a joke, song lyrics, or an adage instead of an actual description of where the user is. And sometimes the user will mock the reader to make him feel stupid. This is done so that potential contacters will have something to read more entertaining than the dry and uninteresting “I am away from my computer right now” which is often the default message on popular instant messaging clients.

Do you see how we are right about that? Well, not everyone carries their laptop around with them wherever they go which is why we built Twitter to work over SMS. Nevertheless, when we started building Twitter, I remembered an old screenshot that blogger Matt Haughey posted in December of 2004.

What's Your Status?

In the caption, Haughey noted the interestingness of his cumulative status messages: “We also use status as a presence monitor and I noticed today I have racked up a story of my life over the past six months, in statuses.”

He’s not kidding. Since building Twitter, I have published almost 12,000 words through the system either through SMS messages or the web UI. That’s roughly the equivalent of six months of blogging at Biz Stone, Genius. That’s a lot of tiny little updates. Google’s Chris Wetherell also says, he’s “blogging with Twitter more than with any other service” and Tony Stubblebine insists that Twitter “is now the ONLY way I keep in contact with people.”

Tony’s remark is important because it aptly describes Twitter as an effortless way to stay connected that works with his life on his schedule. Now if I can just get my little sister out in Maine to sign up, I think we’ll really have something here.