The blogosphere/twittersphere is buzzing about Twitter's announcement about "annotations". In simple terms, this allows you to embed metadata about the tweet (the metadata is not part of the 140 character limit). That is like candy (or maybe Red Bull?) for a developer looking to extract meaning from the chatter coming from 100 million people.
Why We Are All Chirping About Annotations
Take your pick of the blogosphere reaction to Twitter Annotations. This is almost like Apple fan boys raving about the iPad. There are folks trying hard to offer a counter opinion, like "this is really not that important". For example, Steven Hodson at Inquisitr offers this caution:
Just as there is so much that could be realized from Annotated Tweets the flip side is that they would be next to useless in providing any of the above let alone be some sort of SuperTweets. The problem with the whole Annotations idea is that it is application specific which means that any annotations added to Twitter messages by TweetDeck would only be usable to people using TweetDeck. The same applies to any of the hundreds of clients and services built around Twitter. It would also apply to any that Twitter itself might add.
If this happens the promise of the power that Annotated Tweets could bring to the table gets blown away like a puff of smoke.
My take is that it is precisely because it is "application specific" that developers are excited. Developers care about their own app. As long as it works for their own app and they don't think Twitter will suddenly yank the tool out of their toolbox, they will stock up on Red Bull and get cracking.
The golden rule of all platforms from mainframe to mini to PC to Internet has been:
"HE WHO WINS THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF DEVELOPERS WINS THE GAME"
So how will Facebook respond? Rumor has it that the folks at Facebook do take note of what Twitter is doing
David Siegel's Analysis Of Facebook's Semantic Potential
David Siegel, author of the excellent Power Of Pull (buy it here), has a good post dated Feb 15th entitled How Semantic Is Facebook?. This breaks down the different data types in Facebook. Read his post (and his book) for the nuance, but here is my movie critic style interpretation:
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Disambiguating places and names.
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Err, maybe Facebook will now enable metadata annotation to status updates? My prediction, within 6 months max, but it won't be called "annotations".
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2 thumbs down. David Siegel nails the problem when he says:
"Facebook is much more interested in bringing your app data and activities into Facebook than going the other way."
That translates to "grow your food on my land, serf, but don't ever forget who owns the land". Signed, The Baron.
The reason developers get excited by open platforms and things like Twitter Annotations is very simple: it is a tool for building some value and maybe making a living.
David Siegel is a man living at the intersection of leading edge and bleeding edge technology. Hope has to spring eternal for folks like us who live in that world. David's hope for Facebook News:
"Sometime later this year, I expect Facebook will mine the datastream of all people's status updates, providing a searchable news feed. It's highly likely that news feed will be keyword based, but they may have something semantic up their sleeves. Let's see."
After Twitter's Annotation move, Facebook is likely to ensure that David's hope is not unfounded.
Annotations Came At The Right Time For Twitter
This guy is so excited by Twitter Annotations he puts in his Twitter Bio snapshot that he is "Awestruck by Linked Data opportunities in Twitter annotations."
The timing is good for Twitter. <a href="">Twitter's acquisition of the Tweetie iPhone app gave some developers cause for concern. It looked like the classic moves of a big platform competing with erstwhile partners. So it was smart to throw a big juicy Annotations bone to the developer pack to chew on.
This is all good stuff for those of us who want to see the semantic web go mainstream. This is like Drupal making RDFa support native within Drupal7, it is making the semantic web accessible to a lot more developers.
Facebook's next move is eagerly anticipated...