Sean Schulte

Twitter: @sirsean

Github: github.com/sirsean

Email is the distinguished, reliable, old man of online communication; Twitter is the hot young coed who draws everyone's eye as soon as she walks into the room. But what if the two of them met and, say, hit it off?

People like the immediacy and openness of Twitter, and the asynchronous follower model of online relationships is brilliant. However, all the data is stuck on Twitter's servers, and if you don't like the way Twitter is running their systems you're stuck. Imagine if email had worked the same way: there's only one service, called "email.com" or something, and everyone who wants to send email has to sign up for that one service and can only send email to other people on that same service.

It wouldn't be very useful, would it? Opening up email across the internet, and across disparate email servers that only need to know two things about a remote server before allowing you to communicate with someone using it: a) where is it? and b) does it support the same email protocol I do?

It seems to me that if the Twitter usage model were opened up such that anyone could run a "timeline server," and you could choose which one you sign up for, and you could follow people on different timeline servers ... well, maybe once you can do that, the usefulness of Twitter will explode in the same way that it did for email.

And there are plenty of people pushing for Twitter to adopt new features -- meanwhile, Twitter is going slowly and trying to maintain control until they can figure out how to successfully monetize their currently-strong position with all these users desperate to use their service and stuck there because there are no alternatives. But if there were an open alternative, and different timeline operators could compete for users on reliability, or speed, or cool new features, it stands to reason that things would get better in a hurry. (Do you think the monolithic "email.com" would have an interface as cool as Gmail's? Because, without competition for users, I don't think it's likely.)

So I've been playing with such a system for the past week or so. I've got it so you can follow people across timeline servers, and when they tweet to their timeline server it's forwarded to your timeline server so you can see it in your timeline. Some of the API needs to be fleshed out (especially on finer-grained control over how you get tweets back), but it's getting there. Soon, I'll put it up on GitHub.

But before I do that, I need to crowdsource something: the name.

I can't think of a good name for this. I was thinking "OpenTwitter" at first, but I don't want to include the word "Twitter" in the name.

So here's my questions for you:

  1. Would you prefer to tweet on an open communication platform rather than a single company's product?
  2. What name would you give to the baby of Email and Twitter?

Thanks for the help, Internet.