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Is Twitter now an essential internet service?

June 16, 2009

Update (June 18, 2009): Well, its true, the US government follows twitter, knew it was going down in the middle of the evening in Iran and that the service was playing an important role in organizing and getting news out of Iran amidst a government media crackdown.  So:

PJ Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told the New York Times: “This was just a call to say: ‘It appears Twitter is playing an important role at a crucial time in Iran. Could you keep it going?'”

(Great name, by the way PJ, are we related? )

A humble request that they know will be taken as essentially an order from the US government.  I’m sure it wasn’t an unwelcome one either, can anyone estimate how much venture capital you can get after an endorsement by the US State Department that your website is an essential service for dissenting citizens around the world seeking freedom from tyranny?  I see a Mastercard style commercial coming up here.

280,000 lines of fibre optic cable… $3 million
dedicated, 99.99% service reliability gaurantee…$1.5 million/month
giving a voice to the voiceless, and hope to the downtrodden…priceless.

I’m ready to purchase my twitter stock now guys.

UPDATE (June 17,2009): Not sure if this is true but the US State Department might disagree with me, maybe Twitter is there already.

Original Post (June 16,2009):

Wow, Twitter Rescheduled a Maintenance Window to allow the unprecendented usage in Iran to continue since it is such an important part of organizing and getting the word out about the protests.  In fact, they got their service provider to reschedule. They are using a provider NTT, that had scheduled the network upgrades and they convinced them to move it.  Network people don’t like changing their upgrades.  They are complex and planned a long time ahead.  Twitter is one of NTT’s clients, I’m sure a very big client, but its still a big deal.

Its a smart move for Twitter, it shows they are listening to how their service is being used.  But it also sends  subtle message to its users and the world, that they are not just a website.  The message going out today, whether the people at Twitter intend to or not, is that Twitter is more than just a website, its an essential service, like water, electricity and google, and that they will try to make it available all the time.  If it does have to go down, we’ll schedule it to minimize impact and right now, minimizing impact means rescheduling the upgrade for the middle of the night in Tehran rather than the East Coast.

So the question is, do webelieve Twitter is an essential internet service?  Is it as important as the non-stop water flow of google, gmail, hotmail, blackberry connectivity?  Not yet, but the past few days have opened a lot of eyes and I think the answer now is ‘maybe’. Soon, twitter really might be the first place people look for up to the second reports and the first place people think to get the word out about a major event.  It will depend how people react to the #iranelection moment and it will depend if people can really learn to hear the drops of wisdom in the ocean of noise that is twitter.

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