Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) has long been touted as the ‘King’ of Twitter, in fact by many the ‘King’ of the Internet, having established himself in the role of leader based on the staggering number of people who are ‘following’ his each and every word – or tweet.
Very soon, that number will top Four Million – Yes: 4,000,000. That’s staggering by anyone’s count.
That number is very very powerful. As has been proven time and time again, @aplusk has the ability to bring web servers and the sites that sit on them to their knees. Even Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) has experienced this phenomenon on numerous occasions. Just imagine telling a few close friends about this great new website, or funny photo or video – no problem really, unless tens of thousands of them at any one moment decide to click that link.
As a result, many of these ‘twitter leaders’ are cautious with their reference to websites or regularly apologise for causing those sites to crash. This will only be overcome as the infrastructure supporting the internet is expanded.
Does a huge number of followers rightly lead to superiority or authenticity? No. Does a huge number of followers testify to someone’s popularity? Yes. Is popularity a measure of authenticity? Not always.
And this is where Twitter’s new ‘Lists’ feature comes in.
Lists allow every twitter user to create groupings of the people they follow. In fact, it allows users to create groupings of anyone – whether you follow them or not.
As long as the lists you create are public, other people can view your lists, and themselves choose to follow your list.
Here’s where it gets interesting – and perhaps confusing. If you ‘follow’ a list, it doesn’t automatically add all the people on that new list to the list of people you follow. Instead, it simply puts that list in your sidebar, allowing you to regularly check in on that list, but not be ‘bothered’ by updates from people within it in your normal ‘friends feed’.
So what does being ‘on’ a list mean for you or any other twitter user.
Firstly, it’s yet another number you can check on a daily basis to see how ‘popular’ you are.
Secondly, it is, in my opinion going to become a very important part of how news and information will be prioritised years into the future.
You see, it’s all well and good to be put on a list, but there is also a count on the number of people who follow any particular list.
So, as an individual, I can certainly be ‘on’ a list. In fact I could be on many. The judgement of any one of those lists comes not from the number of people in it, but the number of people who follow that list.
Isn’t that just the same as being ‘followed’. Pretty Much.
However, if you consider the open nature of Twitter, just imagine hords of computers trawling through all the twitter users, taking count of how many people are following them – then looks through all the lists that exist and compare the number of people on various lists alongside the number of followers you have.
Finally and crucially, take a look at how many people are following those lists, importantly, how many people are following lists that you are in. If lists appear more popular because a particular user is in them, and therefore more and more people are following those lists you begin to see a pattern of ‘authoritative verification’.
Authoritative Verification basically takes all of these numbers into account and through an algorithm as complex as the Google Page Ranking algorithm.
Is a link really worth clicking on?
Is a blog post worth reading?
To help everyone on the internet, I can imagine seeing Microsoft (through Bing!) and Google looking at all this data and using it to help rank, in real time, search results.
That is just another reason why the recent search deals between Twitter and both Microsoft and Google have a significant level of importance.
Neither Microsoft or Google would see any great long term benefit in just having access to the ‘firehose’ of information spewing out of the Twitter servers every second of the day, without a way of verifying the authenticity or authority behind the post/link/comment.
However, when compared and cross referenced against the Authoritative Verification which lists begins to help with – you’re onto something very special.
In a real time news situation, when a user with a strong Authoritative Verification rating is recommending a certain source of news, Google News could easily take that into account and treat that item of news with more credibility and rank it higher.
This could well be the future of page ranking – expect to see this factor in as time progresses.