Twitter Invades The Desktop
from the next-generation-twitter dept
If you're not an OS X application developer, you can be forgiven for missing last week's debut of MGTwitterEngine. It is, admittedly, a bit arcane: a software component designed for use by developers that allows them to more easily interface with a proprietary messaging network. I wouldn't hold my breath for an Xbox version if I were you. But the software -- and the enthusiastic response it received -- are still worth noting as evidence of notification frameworks' potential for growth.
Many Mac users are familiar with Growl, the ambient notification system that tastefully alerts them of new emails, appointments, completed downloads or any of a huge variety of other system events. There are libraries that make it easy for developers to make their applications display messages through Growl, and many have. But while an ambient notification on your screen is great, an ambient notification that gets routed to whatever display you find most useful is better. So MGTwitterEngine makes it easy for developers to get their apps talking to Twitter (not that it was very hard to begin with -- Twitter's API is quite easy to use). If the idea catches on, soon you'll be able to get a Tweet when your DVD rip completes or as confirmation when your nightly backup succeeds. I wrote about "push" notification technology's resurgence a little while ago; when I did, these were some of the kinds of applications that I had in mind.
Of course, I don't mean to simply boost Twitter. As others have pointed out in comments to previous posts, the service can be spotty, and these days it's far from unique. Twitter owes its current success to its pedigree, its developer-friendly API and its SMS capabilities; for those reasons it seems likely to be the first to gain significant traction in the application notification space. But it would be a shame if a proprietary solution wins the day. For that reason it's worth keeping an eye on the occasional discussions hosted by Dave Winer about building a noncommercial, federated Twitter alternative (likely on top of XMPP).
Will those musings go anywhere? I have to admit that I have no idea — I'm skeptical, but wary of betting against such an endeavor after witnessing OpenID's come-from-behind success. Either way, it seems certain that soon more websites, applications and services are going to be sending me notifications through Twitter or something like it -- perhaps even allowing some of the musings of my colleagues in the Techdirt Insight Community, on how Twitter can be useful for companies to start to come true.