April 16, 2013
Enola Labs

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Though only four months in, 2013 has already been a very busy year for Twitter. In that time, they have embarked on a number of projects to expand their scope as a social networking service. The first of these developments took place on January 24, when they announced Vine, “a mobile service that lets you capture and share short looping videos” that they acquired last October. As with their character count, Twitter imposed a limit for video length on Vine—a mere 6 seconds—consistent with their philosophy that brevity inspires creativity.

It would seem that the point of adding Vine to Twitter’s app was to make themselves a more versatile medium by incorporating the video domain into their service. You’d be right to say this, but wrong to think that it stopped with Vine.

On April 12, Twitter confirmed month-old rumors about a “Twitter music service” when they launched a landing page on http://music.twitter.com/. What does it do? As of right now, nothing. For the past four days, a user has only been given the option to sign in and authorize the music app for Twitter. Once you do that, however, you’re merely taken back to the landing page. Some reports claimed that the music service could have launched as early as April 12, but that clearly didn’t happen.

When it does launch, what can we expect it to do? Designer Youssef Sarhan believes he has found the answer to this question in Twitter Music’s source code. The service will apparently offer integration with Spotify, Rdio, iTunes, Soundcloud, Vevo, and YouTube and allow you to tweet what you’re listening to in realtime.

Sarhan’s own blog post on his discovery seems to shed even more light on the nebulous nature of Twitter Music. He notes that there will be a mobile app and a desktop app for Twitter Music. He also discovered that users will be able to purchase songs directly from the service, compose tweets from the music app, toggle explicit/clean content, and follow other users (which gives one the impression that this will be separate from their current Twitter follower list). Artists will also have featured biographies, and there will be “charts” and “shows”—though what either entails is still unclear.

It’s obvious that Twitter has developed an appetite for making forays into new waters. But as if music wasn’t enough of a massive arena, news outlets are now reporting that Twitter is seriously looking to expand its reach to the world of TV. According to Bloomberg, “Twitter Inc. is close to reaching partnerships with television networks that would bring more high-quality video content and advertising to the social site.”

In the past, they’ve discussed the prospect of “hosting TV clips on its site and selling ads alongside them” with Viacom and have also held talks with Comcast and NBCUniversal about a possible content partnership. If successfully established, these partnerships would be additional boons to the slew of friends and allies they’ve already procured, including Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, Weather Channel LLC, and Turner Brodcasting System Inc.

The ostensible purpose of this move would be to incorporate more entertainment and news video into their existing service. One person “familiar with the discussions” stated that, “The partnerships would let Twitter stream videos on its site and split the resulting ad revenue with the networks”; that “one or more deals could be reached by mid-May”; and that “Twitter may strike deals with other networks.”

But if we examine these developments in their proper context, perhaps Twitter’s TV ventures aren’t so surprising. After all, it was announced towards the end of last year that Twitter and Nielsen would be slated to release a “syndicated standard-metric around the reach of the TV conversation on Twitter” for commercial availability this fall. Twitter also displayed their interest in television affairs last year when they teamed up with NBC during the 2012 Summer Olympics to promote the use of their service among Olympics enthusiasts.

First a social network for video, then another for music, and now Twitter is seeking to blur the lines between their formerly minimalist microblogging service and the colossal world of television, with all its attendant bells and whistles. As we watch Twitter get its many feet in numerous doors, only time will tell which of these intriguing ventures will succeed and which will flop (there’s a precedent for that sort of thing, after all).