Twitter could be the next Mozilla
Pauli Olavi Ojala

Brilliant! Twitter needs to remain independent to serve as a platform for public discourse. I imagine it running off a set of principles that preserve (and improve, really) its current role as the place people go for breaking news, to find other collaborators to build a movement, to engage in political discussions, to follow people they admire. If Twitter were directed toward the public good — perhaps even beyond what Mozilla has done, it could become even more powerful and critical than it is already.

Imaginary Future Twitter Principles:

  1. Be who you are, who you want to be or who you need to be: if you want to be yourself, great. But there are people who need to be able post anonymously, for political or safety reasons of course, but also just because you want to be someone else, for comedy, for poetry, for any human who needs a way to broadcast a message.
  2. Provide Transparency: Building off the article above, Twitter becomes completely open. APIs are opened up, but also, the experience of using Twitter becomes transparent. You will always know why you are seeing what you’re seeing, no one will run social experiments on you — unless you really want to participate in that sort of thing, and your feed will be managed by you.
  3. Cross-pollination: One of the reasons Twitter is such a different place than FB is that it’s actually possible to encounter and engage in world views that are different than your own. The simple difference of a single-direction connection (ie, I can follow you, even if you’re not following me) expands the possibility for what I can encounter immeasurably. In a political environment where positions are becoming ever more entrenched, and where networks are at risk of closing in on themselves, Twitter should remain resolutely focused on making connections between disparate groups and individuals that wouldn’t happen any other way. There’s power in building those connections.
  4. Security and privacy of your data: The contents of the discussions may be open but the contents of your profile are not. My imaginary future Twitter does not share or sell data on users with any entity — as a fundamental tenet of its existence.
  5. Design for productive discourse: While we’re imagining a way to preserve and improve all the amazing things about Twitter, why not throw in a principle focused on pulling Twitter back from its role at the center of nearly every complaint of harassment and abuse? There’s got to be a way to balance the magic of cross-pollination with appropriate controls to prevent the torrents of abuse that people experience.

It would be hard — impossible? — to focus on these principles AND work towards the revenue goals that the market seems to be expecting from Twitter. Many of these principles are at odds with a solely revenue-driven mission. So let’s broaden the mission: Twitter is a vital part of our political, cultural and social environment, and should be preserved rather than pushed to become something it’s not.