Will the BBC launch its own version of Twitter?

BBC Backstage’s Ian Forrester has been blogging about the attention that Twitter has been getting from the BBC and some experiments they’ve done with using the open source microblogging platform Laconi.ca:

“I think as the BBC gets its heads around microblogging it will quickly notice that not only is it somewhat promoting a single startup through its wording but that Microblogging is much bigger and like how we don’t host our blogs on wordpress.com, we will want to host it ourselves. There’s all type of things we could do with our microblogging system, things which are forbidden on Twitter or even not possible because of the way Twitter is setup. The obvious example is a children’s microblogging service. This will resolve its self and it will be the geeks who had a hand in the new bright future of the BBC.”

This is a typically difficult – and foggy – area for the BBC. On the one hand is the recurring paranoia of being seen to unduly influence the market; on the other, there is the concern of spending public funds on adapting an open source platform like Jaiku for something that no one will likely use because everyone is already somewhere else: Twitter.

Ultimately it comes down to which road gets the core job done best, and that’s clearly the Twitter route.

In some ways it reflects a general perception of Twitter being a publishing medium – when it is more about communication. Imagine the BBC not using telephones for fear they were artificially inflating the value of telephone companies.

But a key problem is that Twitter has no business model yet, which makes it unpredictable – a fact that became particularly apparent when many publishers had the rug pulled from under their feet when Twitter withdrew SMS updates overnight. By making users increasingly dependent on the service Twitter gain power and it’s harder for news organisations to make concrete plans.

There’s another side to this: in the next few years the likes of Open Social and other Identity 2.0 technologies are likely to make it easier for users to export their identities across services – meaning you don’t need to re-invite all your friends/followers. In other words, that power of Twitter is significantly lessened.

But not so much that a BBC microblogging service makes any sense whatsoever if it can be done more effectively with Twitter.

And if it can’t be done with Twitter, there are dozens of startups who could probably do it better as part of a partnership (perhaps through Backstage itself), than the BBC could alone.

2 thoughts on “Will the BBC launch its own version of Twitter?

  1. Ian Forrester

    Thanks Paul.

    Interesting points about the telephone company. But I guess it comes down to some of us geeks in the BBC believe the laconi.ca and Jaiku routes are much further down the line that others do. Imagine being able to post across services like twitter, identi.ca, plurk, jaiku like how we use email today. Well its almost a reality already technically, editorially its a very interesting concept.

  2. paulbradshaw

    You will know more about the technical capabilities, and I’d be interested what you can do with those. (Likewise I like the fact magnol.ia can be used in the same way as wordpress.org, database downtime aside).


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