Twitter's acquisition of Summize has created a great deal of chatter in the socialsphere this week. The chatter has been good. Twitter conversationalists are pretty keen on the microblogging giant's move toward a more defined business model as well the addition of features and staff that will in the long run improve the platform's overall usability.
The Summize service has already been rebranded Twitter Search but it has yet to be integrated into Twitter itself -- a task Biz Stone says will be completed "in the very near future." Third-party client developers who didn't want to integrate Twitter's shoddy innate search functionality have begun plans to incorporate Twitter Search. Twitter client TweetDeck anticipated such a need and included Summize integration when it launched two weeks ago. This would consolidate multiple Twitter services into one -- a definite plus to lazy Web users like me.
On Tuesday I speculated that this noise about reliable, intuitive and integrated search would have dedicated Twitter search engines Twellow and TweetScan shaking in their cyber shoes. While TweetScan was not immediately reachable for comment, I did catch up with Twellow lead developer Matthew Daines. Daines said that the company -- owned by the producers of WebProNews and the iEntry Network -- is not threatened by the Twitter-Summize deal nor the potential for users to abandon outside search engines. As a matter of fact, he thinks it's a downright opportunity.
Q. [Jennifer] How has the Twitter / Summize acquisition potentially affected the use and market for Twellow?
A. [Matthew] The Summize acquisition has not affected our vision for Twellow all that much. Summize has always been a service that has offered tremendous value for Twitter users, even before Twellow was launched, but I don't feel the Summize service is really in direct competition with ours.
We do watch what Twitter users say about Twellow, and many have commented that Summize and Twellow are more complementary, not so much that they preferred one above the other. I tend to agree with this view. And, it has always been our vision for Twellow to be a more broad directory of social media. We are in preliminary communications and development with various other social media outlets to bring their users into the system, so regardless of what happens at Twitter we'll continue to move in that direction.
Q. Now that people will have a reliable, built-in search and trending option in Twitter, do you have differentiators from which you believe users can benefit? And, do you think they will continue to move off the Twitter site to use them?
A. Obviously being able to find like-minded people on Twitter is enhanced by the Summize features. But Twellow does offer a different means to that end. Our directory structure allows people to browse through various topics using previously suggested categories. We as users don't always know exactly what it is we're looking for, and having the directory structure assists people in finding interesting people they otherwise might not think to do a search on.
As for people moving off of Twitter to use our site, I think that's counter-intuitive. Twellow's service also pushes people back into Twitter, helping to get the Twitter brand out there. Many people have commented that they are now using Twitter because they found themselves on Twellow.
Q. What does make Twellow different than Summize?
A. Twellow is a people directory and Summize is a topic search engine. The two techniques, though similar in some respects, are different means to the searching end. While Summize allows people to find exactly what they know they want, Twellow serves people who might not know what keywords to look for, and also provides a visual tool to see that there is a lot bigger world than just what they are thinking of at the moment. The existence of Google search hasn't eliminated the demand for online yellow pages, links, and other methods of searching; and the same can be said for Summize and Twellow.
Q. Any plans to integrate Twellow into existing Twitter clients or release a Twellow client for Twitter?
A. We leave all options on the table as far as future integrations. But that is not our focus right now. Whether or not we open our service up via some sort of client API is to be seen, but we are focusing on providing good usability to our patrons. These other types of features will come as time and demand allow and require.
Q. Any thoughts on what this acquisition might mean to the entire social search landscape?
A. I think this has opened up great opportunities for others to do the same types of search services for other social media outlets. By acquiring Summize, Twitter has effectively prevented it from going ahead and including services like FriendFeed, Pownce, and other social media offerings. But it has also signaled to other hopeful start-ups that hard work and an excellent offering can bring great rewards. I'd expect to see the emergence of Summize look-alikes attempting the same type of functionality with other social media outlets.
Q. Any new features on the horizon?
A. We're currently working on a system to allow our users to self-direct the category creation within Twellow. We constantly receive requests from people who would like to see category X, Y, or Z included. And since we're not experts on most categories, giving this ability to the users, those who really know what they're talking about, will be a great addition to making Twellow more accurate. We're also looking at providing better features to allow people to interact with the other users in their favorite categories. How these types of features will play out is to be seen, but we are very excited about what Twellow has coming.