We'd Be Excited About Twitter's @Anywhere If Only We Knew What It Did

And we're not the only ones

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On Monday, in front of a packed audience at South by Southwest, Twitter CEO Evan Williams unveiled his company's latest innovation, @anywhere. But there was one problem. Williams's explanation of the product left many of the world's foremost tech enthusiasts baffled as to what it actually does. Here's what we know so far.

The new service will integrate Twitter with third party Web sites like The New York Times and YouTube. Similar to Facebook Connect, Twitter users will be able to interact with the service even if they aren't on the Twitter Web site. This would include new functions like following a journalist on Twitter by simply rolling over their byline and clicking. Or watching a video on YouTube and tweeting about it directly on the page. Unfortunately, Williams's explanation was terse, and the company's explanation on its blog was even more terse. Tech observers have begun the collective head scratching:

  • Utterly Confusing, writes Mark Sullivan at PC World: "It was as if Williams wanted to announce the thing today, but didn’t want to give many details about it, and what it might mean. Why is he downplaying it? Is something bigger and better coming? Some other deal that will bring far more revenue to the company?"
  • I Can't Wrap My Head Around It, writes Mitch Wagner at Computer World: "Getting to the bottom of what @anywhere is wasn't easy -- and I'm still not confident that I've accurately sussed it out":

The post on the Twitter blog announcing @anywhere is cryptic. It's just three paragraphs long. The first two paragraphs natter about how Twitter doesn't require a "relationship model," and talks about a "new set of frameworks" and "open, engaging interactions providing a new layer of value for visitors." I've read that last phrase several times, it makes less and less sense every time I read it.

The new service -- whatever it is -- won't use Twitter APIs. Rather, developers will simply be required to "drop in a few line of JavaScript." Where would that JavaScript be dropped? Twitter doesn't say. I presume they'd be dropped onto Web pages. Because where else do you drop JavaScript? A hat? The ocean? A bowl of chocolate pudding?

  • A Boring, Baffling Presentation, observes Louis Gray: "Twitter will have to promote its new @ Anywhere platform in a better way, for today, it was seriously overshadowed by a train wreck we found ourselves stuck watching... After thousands of Twittering geeks and quasi-geeks alike had settled in to the packed exhibition hall and overflow rooms to hear the latest updates delivered straight from Twitter's leader, their excitement soon turned to boredom and finally, severe annoyance, as the interview's pace, tone and content fell well below expectations. After an hour's time, the halls in Austin were more than half empty, and an opportunity to showcase one of technology's biggest successes in the last few decades was for the most part lost."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.