I went to a meetup last week where I met the founders of a startup called Weendy. They pitched it as a “mobile social network for the weather” which I thought was amusing, but they then sold me on the application’s utility as well: most of the current ~1,000 users are surfers. When a surfer gets to the beach, he takes a video of the weather and the waves and uploads it to Weendy so other surfers can see and decide whether to come out that day or not. It’s easy to see this expanding to skiers, skydivers, rock climbers, etc…not to mention weather channel addicts.
My A-ha moment came when we got around to discussing partnerships and integrations. They are in the process of integrating into twitter so that users can publish to twitter through Weendy. The obvious question from my end was: Why not the reverse? Why not pull data on a location’s weather from twitter and integrate that into the informational feed on the Weendy app? Users would get more complete, recently updated data on the weather. A lengthy discussion over cheap beer ensued.
My key realization was the twitter offers utlity in real-time. Of course, I’d read all about this before, but it was not until this conversation that it really hit home. I constantly hear twitter will be huge, and it is clear why: Imagine all the current and future twitter data that already exists for flights, for traffic, for where taxis are concentrated on Saturday night; imagine a customizable mobile dashboard where all of this info is visualized. I would certainly pay for that. The possible uses of twitter data are endless, and, importantly, they are very useful. The twitter of tomorrow will not be for celebrity stalking or talking about breakfast.
However, going on this logic, for most future users the greatest value will be provided via applications built on top of twitter data, not twitter itself. Even at this early stage, I exclusively use tweet deck; the amount of information from following only ~250 people is like drinking from a fire hose when using the twitter client (yes, I know twitter owns tweet deck). Thus from a monetization/business model perspective, I don’t see how advertisements can fit into twitter’s big-picture value proposition. This only leaves two choices for twitter itself: get busy building or buying new ways to consume its own own data or end up charging for data/API calls. Is there any other way?