When I first heard about Twitter, I couldn't help but think it's a narcissist's dream. And the idea that anyone would want to know all the minutia and knee-jerk thoughts of anyone else disturbed me. But mainly I was stuck on three questions:
My position has softened somewhat after reading this Technology Review Q&A with Twitter and Blogger inventor, Evan Williams. That's because Williams does a good job of addressing those three questions.
While I still can't believe that anyone cares how good Williams' bagel was this morning, I can see that someone might be interested in, say, knowing what the CEO's most recent thoughts on an acquisition might be.
It's also going to get a boost from the fact that Twitter is encouraging people to create their own looks and functions. Among the more promising applications thus far are Twitterific, which allows Twitter messages to pop up on your screen - much like an IM client - and then fade away. News media would love to use that as a tool for sending messages about breaking news.
Another neat idea is Twitter Vision, a world-map representation of Twitter posts. Imagine applying that technology to, say, monitoring bad weather. Or war zones.
It looks to me like Twitter may have staying power that could be useful in the real, grown-up world. (Unlike MySpace, which seems to endure only as a repository of the world's tackiest gifs and Web design.) My guess is it'll be another three years, at least, before you see it being used by business and governments, but if you're with a cutting-edge organization, you might want to keep an eye out.