Is #twitter too lazy or too smart?

Twitter, admit it, is more than just a company. What Twitter does and doesn’t is news. Twitter is a phenomenon by now. Not many companies have had such a social impact. What’s the reason for this phenomenal success? There might be pundits out there pointing to this and that, but nobody really knows what went well for Twitter. Heck, even Twitter’s founders can’t explain what Twitter really is, despite having the luxury of using more than 140 characters. Despite its phenomenal success and great brand recall, Twitter has hardly done anything worth mentioning after its launch.

How can Twitter exist without innovating? Twitter is awesome but nothing major came out of it since its launch. It’s almost stuck in second gear with its 140 characters. There are just two things Twitter did well so far: Launching Twitter and launching API’s to access Twitter streams. Beyond that point twitter hasn’t done much.

The 140 character limit is a beauty. But it has its own challenges. What if we want to say something which doesn’t fit in to 140 characters? Like a picture, a video, a story, or a longer tweet. Twitter never provided an option to do this. API’s took over, developers took over and deployed services to share pictures, long stories and longer tweets. Sharing pictures, videos, and the url shorteners is like the plumbing which Twitter never bothered to do. Twitpic is feeding on Twitter by feeding pictures and videos to Twitter. Plethora of URL shorteners, though they existed before Twitter, found their epiphany with the advent of Twitter.

Twitter’s web interface is anything but exciting. Hence the need for a desktop or a smartphone application. Twitter never had its own desktop client. In came, Tweetdeck, Ecofon, Ubersocial and bunch of other services. Twitter never really had a business plan to make money. It flirted with sponsored tweets and is still doing it.

Beyond selling the idea that people will be using its 140 character typing interface to spread the word, Twitter hasn’t done much on its own. Whatever was done was done by the so called ecosystem. That’s where the lazy part ends. Of course, Twitter has made sure that its service is up 99% of the time which is an achievement given its popularity and traffic.

Now comes the smart part. Twitter bought the extremely popular TweetDeck for $40m in cash and stock. It later bought AdGrok for $10m. That has plugged two gaping holes for Twitter – a desktop application and money. Instead of buying a url shortner service it has rolled its own service, at least three years late.

With some laziness and with some smart moves, Twitter has reigned in the onslaught of Facebook. With Apple’s new iOS5’s tight integration with Twitter, it almost assumes an insurmountable position in the microblog space and will stand its own ground in social media.

Not many companies have gotten this far without visible innovation of their own. Twitter seems to be an exception rather than a norm. That’s where the biggest question comes :

Can #twitter continue to be lazy? Or should I say relaxed?