New Twitter Competitor Rumored, but Can It Work?

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Venture capitalist Bill Gross' UberMedia, which bought up several Twitter application developers, is planning to build a competitor to the short-messaging service. It got me thinking: Who competes with Twitter now? Sure, they, like every media company, compete with *everyone* for eyeballs, but they don't really have any direct competitors left in the social networking around short messages space. Here's CNN's Mark Milian's scoop:

UberMedia, which owns several popular applications that interface with Twitter, is outlining plans to build a social network that could compete with that popular microblogging platform, said three people who were briefed on the plans. The service would seek to attract users by addressing common complaints about Twitter, such as its restriction on the length of a message and how it can be confusing to newcomers, according to these sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the plans.

Years ago, Plurk, Identi.ca and Friendfeed seemed like they might legitimately beat Twitter when the latter service was struggling with technical problems. But obviously that didn't happen. Now, Twitter's in an interesting position. A few (like myself) use the service compulsively; the many use it occasionally or never. It's hard to get into and can feel like walking into a party where everyone knows each other.

I wonder if Twitter's medium-term future is as a very valuable niche platform for those of us glued to the Internet by trade or avocation, while a more mass market-friendly service takes over for the general audience.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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