The Internet and the Web are vast and rich spaces. The advent of social networking may seem to have revolutionized how we interact with these spaces, but in truth it has only really added just one more place in which information transfer can occur. The information available through the ‘net is amazing in its scope, breadth and depth. I’m sure if you looked long enough (say 10 minutes) you’d pull up an old post I made to the space1999 mailing list in praise of Alan Carter’s propensity for crashing Eagles–posted sometime when I was in University over a decade and a half ago.

Today those of us plugged in tweet and blog and update our Facebook status–and often fail to remember just how long what we say will hang around and how it might impact our lives and/or careers ten years later.

Yet, that said, quite often there seems to be this strange memory pot-hole in the ‘Information Super-Highway’ (what an old term!). Often what we cherish most in terms of posts or articles or positions seem to fade from the Internet and Web over time–sometimes in the most inopportune moment! I think this is for two reasons. First, each of us is generally a small fish in an immense ocean, and unless you’re a public figure, what you say or do is at the mercy of the vagaries of hosting and archiving. Which comes to the second reason: the vagaries of hosting and archiving. Data storage isn’t free, and with that in mind it’s not surprising some of the short fiction I had published with small press e-zines a decade ago is no longer accessible now that said e-zines are long out of business.

Recently Twitter has been making noise about how to generate a revenue stream without moving to on-line advertising. I understand this need–I work for an Internet company, and revenue is the lifeblood of any business. Without some steady income Twitter will eventually just go away.

But there’s a fine line to be walked here. Twitter’s value isn’t really in the service it provides, but in the reach it has to it’s millions of subscribers. Charge for the standard on-line service and the subscribers begin to vanish. This is what many newspapers have discovered when they put their content behind a pay-wall when they moved online (and sadly, some are now attempting to relearn that lesson again–likely with the same results). People might pay for premium Twitter service–but no one will pay for what we get to do now for free.

So, if no subscription fee, and no advertising, what is Twitter to do?

I say, just imagine the market and trend-research and analysis potential in mining billions of tweets from millions of users. Monetize that is what I say. Otherwise I think the end result of old revenue thinking on Twitter’s part is one giant fail whale.

Sean