Twitter is a preview of the third generation of the web, where we are communicating in real-time. The first generation was rather static. It was mostly companies displaying their products and services on web pages. Individuals started creating personal websites, but they too were static. The Web was used for publishing and a lot of screen scraping was done to cut and paste from other websites.
The second generation of the Web, the so-called ‘Web 2.0’ was more interactive. With the advent of webServices, the web became a more connected place. Companies started using the social networking media like MySpace and FaceBook, to set up a dialogue with their customers. Individuals were using social networking media to connect with their friends and to keep them posted on what they were doing. Everywhere ‘wikis’ were being set up with individuals blogging about a wide range of subjects. This created a web where you could follow what was going on in a certain niche and take part in the discussion.
The third generation of the Web is about to break loose. It takes things one step further than interactive; it’s real-time. Here the Web is connecting everything and everybody. We will see real-time interactions between devices and people. These interactions are taking the form of a constant stream of data that comes to you, rather than messages or web pages you have to look for. People will still be concerned about what has happened in the past, but this generation of the web is all about what’s happening now.
Twitter gives us a glimpse of this the third generation of the Web. It lets us communicate in near real-time, but it resembles a stream of a gigantic stream of data that everybody can jump into, to pick up what they like. Many things that happen in the world are first reported on Twitter. When that plane landed in the Hudson River early 2009 a guy called Janis Krums was on the ferry picking up the first survivors. He took a picture of the plane and tweeted this to the world.
When the elections in Iran in June 2009 were over, the world learned from the many tweets from Iran that there were violent protests against the election results. When the protests started, the regular news media like CNN did not pick this up for hours. This in itself caused a big discussion on Twitter (#cnnfail) about the role that the regular news media should be playing. The issue here is: can what is tweeted be trusted by the news media or is further investigation required? The answer is a difficult one, but one thing is clear “the truth is more seen than read”, so anything that is documented on video or photos, can be trusted more than what is written.