Social networking software

Twitter Archiving Is for the Birds

If you ever needed a good reason to be especially careful what you say on Twitter, you now have at least two.

In what really sounds like a late April Fools' Day joke, the Library of Congress has announced (via Twitter, naturally) it is planning to archive all Twitter messages dating back to March 2006. That's right -- every mindless tweet about someone's cat and/or lunch, every breathless utterance from Ashton, all 10,785,632 tweets from the Guy Kawasaki Twitter Sweat Shop (oops, make that 10,785,635), all of it, right there next to Lincoln's speeches and the Gutenberg Bible.

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And people wonder why writing satire has gotten so much harder.

Even odder: The blogosphere is gushing over the significance of this development. Take Ars Technica's Nate Anderson, for example:

...even those billions of other tweets and retweets, the ones about how you just got back from the worlds' most epic jog or how you're sick at home with the crocodile flu or how your crappy Internet connection just went down again and you can't take it any more--those matter too.

There's been a turn toward historicism in academic circles over the last few decades, a turn that emphasizes not just official histories and novels but the diaries of women who never wrote for publication, or the oral histories of soldiers from the Civil War, or the letters written by a sawmill owner. The idea is to better understand the context of a time and place, to understand the way that all kinds of people thought and lived, and to get away from an older scholarship that privileged the productions of (usually) elite males.

Of course, what is Twitter full of? Mostly elite males. Also, self-styled social media gurus, spammers, self-obsessed Web "celebrities," and porn stars. (Definitely worth careful academic study, don't you think?)

Next for the Library: video clips of Homer Simpson belching "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Reason No. 2: Google has introduced what it's calling Replay It, a fully searchable archive of tweets from days gone by. Right now, it's limited to tweets issued back to Feb. 11 of this year. The plan is to make the entire archive searchable back to March 21, 2006, the first thing ever tweeted: Jack Dorsey's "just setting up my twttr." Thus, you can pick a date on a timeline and see what people were going on endlessly about. Can't you just feel history being made?

Meanwhile, in other Twitter-related news, the site has finally come up with a way to print money, via an ad campaign called Promoted Tweets. This is not the same as the $10,000 payouts TwitCelebs like Kim Kardashian and P. Diddy have been enjoying by shilling for companies like Carl's Jr. and Sony. These are tweets produced by the companies themselves that will live (for now) on certain results pages when people search Twitter. Later, if the tweets "resonate" with Twitter users, says head Twit Biz Stone, they'll slowly seep into other areas of the site.

Prediction No. 1: Within two years, every 10th or 20th tweet in everyone's Twitter account will be sponsored by someone, whether they resonate or not.

Prediction No. 2: These too will make it into the Library of Congress archive, which some future archeologist will peruse thousands of years after our civilization has crumbled into ash and wonder, "What the **** were they thinking?"

Is there anything you wish people would stop tweeting about? E-mail me:cringe@infoworld.com.

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