Web 2.0 ventures have discovered a simple formula for success: encourage users' conceit that what they say, do, and think is interesting enough to share with others. This is how Twitter, a hot startup, turns a stream of drivel into cold, hard cash.Twitter lets subscribers send and receive very short messages using SMS, IM, and the Web. The premise of a Twitter message is "What are you up to?" In aggregate, it turns out to be nothing much.
USV admits it has no business plan for Twitter. Its investors are feeding money to build a robust platform, and they'll figure how how to make it pay as they go. That's par for the course for a lot of Web 2.0 startups, and USV's investment is validated by other examples of Web properties that draw crowds (and sometimes massive payouts) by enabling user-generated communication (think Flickr and YouTube).
USV touts Twitter as an emerging form of communication that takes the best elements of blogging (a form of public communication that doesn't necessarily require a response) and adds the immediacy of banter that you'd get from a live conversation.
To my mind these are the worst features of Twitter. Thanks to spam and an infinite supply of inane blogs, the Internet's signal-to-noise ratio is already dangerously out of whack. Twitter's emphasis on immediacy simply ramps up the injection rate of crap into the communication stream.
Of course, Twitter's value exists outside the actual content of the messages. The Twitter folks have created a device-agnostic message exchange system that links three very popular messaging platforms. This system can surely be expanded to distribute all kinds of content. Inevitabley, along with content comes advertising. Hey, presto -- a business model!
So Twitter is likely a great investment, but I plan to avoid the service like the plague. I already know I'm up to nothing much. I'll just assume you are, too.