On Monday, March 15, Twitter announced a new feature called @anywhere via the Twitter blog. The blog post coincided with a widely anticipated SXSW keynote speech by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, and theoretically explained the feature to those of us not lucky enough to be in Austin.
While William’s speech got into the nitty-gritty of the feature, the blog post remains coy. It praises Twitter’s philosophy of open communication and means of “sharing information in a new, participatory manner” and introduces the @anywhere feature in this context. The Twitter bloggers explain it as a simpler way (vs. APIs) for external sites to integrate the Twitter model into their user experience. What the post does not do is elucidate what the @anywhere feature actually does, and what it means for Twitter’s users and business model alike.
So what does @anywhere do?
In a nutshell, the feature allows users to interact with Twitter on third party sites without leaving the site itself. People and brands with Twitter accounts will appear in text as a hyperlink, and when you hover over the link, their Twitter details and the ability to follow them will appear. So, when you’re checking out a book on Amazon, you can hover over the author’s byline and follow her directly from that page.
Convenient, right? Yes. @anywhere will make it easy to find and follow accounts that interest you. It’s good news for businesses as well. The @anywhere service will significantly reduce the legwork that it takes to find your brand on Twitter, allowing users to follow you in one quick, easy step. Quick and easy means more followers, more followers means a bigger audience for your branded messages.
The real value, however, comes for Twitter itself. @anywhere is a large step towards the site’s goal of serving as an information and communication hub on the web. The service will make Twitter visible to people who may otherwise be unaware or uninterested. It integrates the Twitter experience into other, less “techy”, more universal web activities like reading the news or watching videos. And it very well may presage an advertising model that will finally answer the now seemingly age-old question of How Twitter Will Make Money.
Do you agree that @anywhere is a big move for Twitter? Or do you think that it spells trouble? Either way, @anywhere is certain to continue evolving one of today’s most interesting online services.