Twitter: The New IM?

I think this is a blog worthy of a little trip down memory lane.  All of this will take us on a cruise through the history of Instant Messaging.

Instant message has its roots before the days of the modern internet.  Some types were peer-to-peer, others had people connect to a central server or network.  IRC is one of those types, and it is something that is still quite popular in the interwebs today.

As computers became more ‘flashy‘ and graphical user interfaces (GUI) came on the scene, some of the more popular ones that we all know and love (or at least know) came about. These include ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger.  Once AOL’s hit the web, other branded IMs came up.  MSN, YIM, and a few other three lettered IMs that probably came up, too.

Well, each of those offer a service that allows you to chat with one or more people. They send a message, you respond.  It doesn’t get any easier to explain than that!

So, what about Twitter?

I know that I am guilty of using Twitter for IM-type purposes. All you need is a Twitter app and you may as well tell yourself you’re using an IM app.  And, before you even know it, you’re trapped.

It all starts with someone posting a very interesting link about images from the moon.  Before you know it, you and them are chatting back and forth, sending each other @replies without a care in the world.

This seems to be the habit of more and more people. Have you seen this yourself?  Have you checked Twitter, only to find that the past twelve minutes worth of tweets have been between two or three people, all replying to each other in rapid fire?

With more people using Twitter, this could possibly be a replacement IM system. However, before you go dumping Pidgin and load up Twhirl, keep a few things in mind:

  1. Replies aren’t private – Just because you thought it would be cool to send a message to @BrentSpiner doesn’t mean that only they will se it.  So, while you may think it’s cool to start messaging your friends, remember what you put in those messages. If it’s private data, you probably shouldn’t post it on Twitter at all, especially a reply.
  2. API Limits – No matter how fast you want your friends’ updates, you’re still limited. Twitter has a limit and, unless you want to sit on their web page and constantly refresh it, you won’t be getting true real time, or instant, messages.

Does Twitter have the potential to eventually be an IM service? It’s possible.  It would take some changes on their set up to allow for it, but it could be done.  Will it be done, though, is the question.  Their current setup seems to be popular enough as is, so major changes would probably not be in their best interest.

Now, that said, Twitter is still a very useful tool for pushing out information to people. After all, it is called a micro-blogging platform for a reason.

Are there ways you can make Twitter more useful? I’ll be writing about that coming up soon.

What do you think?  Does Twitter serve as your second IM?  How do you use Twitter?  Leave your comments below!

  • Colin English

    I think IM and Twitter came about for different reasons, but more people are being attracted to Twitter because of the hype around it. So some tweeters will use it as an IM replacement, not even knowing that ordinary IM tools exist.

  • Colin English

    I think IM and Twitter came about for different reasons, but more people are being attracted to Twitter because of the hype around it. So some tweeters will use it as an IM replacement, not even knowing that ordinary IM tools exist.

  • Very true. Though, I would think that the computer literate people are the ones using Twitter, and these folks typically know their IM apps. Twitter’s growth may have thrown me a curve ball!

  • Very true. Though, I would think that the computer literate people are the ones using Twitter, and these folks typically know their IM apps. Twitter’s growth may have thrown me a curve ball!