Twitter video, default-public content, and the power of the embed

Whether Twitter intends to take on YouTube I don’t know (smart money says yes — I’ll explain why in a moment). But Twitter does retain a unique advantage over other social tools: it’s public by default, and that’s baked deeply into its DNA as a product.

If I wanted to build a good video play in 2015, here’s the short checklist of things I’d guess were probably necessary: a huge audience (bonus points for an engaged celebrity user base), a subscriber model with default-public content, and the ability to embed. That sounds familiar.

Default-public content makes for a philosophically different product than default-private. Default-public is where we go to share with everyone — and it’s a big part of what made YouTube powerful early on. Over the years it’s been interesting to see the contortions others have gone through to try and wrest publicly addressable content from users who initially walked through the door expecting tight access control.

Being public also affords opportunities for embeddability, and embeddability is a primary catalyst for virality. (I lump concepts like retweeting / reblogging under the same umbrella, kind of like in-band embeds.) I often refer back to the concept of funnels in product development: if you count on high attrition of engagement and a finite amount of human time and attention, you know people may not make it to the next link or step. So every opportunity to make an interesting piece of content available immediately, where the user already is, increases its chances of spreading rapidly. Some tools are simply set up for virality.

When you don’t back into default-public content, you have a very different set of opportunities. (The same certainly goes for the opposite, too.) As Dave Morin so eloquently said: