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'Twitter Annotations' - When 140 Characters Just Isn't Enough!

There's some irony here - but with the Semantic Technolody fast approaching - it was an inevitable progression of the Web that was bound to happen. While the simplicity of the common tweet was underscored by its short 140 characters or less, Twitter Annotations will be adding metadata to those tweets (similar to how Twitter Places integrated with geolocation this past year), adding copious amounts of additional data to each tweet.

Tweets with annotations according to Twitter's blog will represent structured metadata about each tweet. What that metadata contains is up to you. This new feature simply provides a structure for how to specify the annotations and retrieve this data along with the tweet, without affecting the tweet's character count.

Twitter AnnotationsTwitter Annotations

The Annotations' publishing tools will now be able to add a description to any tweet users compose, not as part of the tweet, but as a machine-readable metadata field that attaches to and travels along with the tweet.

Examples of Annotations could elaborate on the tweet in a number of ways:

  • String of text
  • Additional URLs
  • Links to media files, podcast, videos, photos
  • Context as location, weather conditions or mood of the author
  • Ratings, reviews, rankings
  • Charts, maps, diagrams
Think of Annotations as any way you would classify, describe, append or otherwise enrich a tweet with words, numbers or additional links. Every time one tweets, they will now be able to attach a quality or characteristic to that tweet.

WebHooks are a way to receive valuable information in real-time when it happens, rather than continually polling for that data and receiving nothing valuable most of the time. WebHooks have enormous potential and are limited only by a users' imagination!

Webhooks are basically links to instructions that can be lengthy and consequently more descriptive than the tweet, by itself. Seesmic, one Twitter client is actually building their own platform for Windows to support plug-ins that will let Twitter users augment tweets with other services, such as StockTweets or online games that will allow you see stock graphs and/or a game board in play, in real-time.

In a ReadWriteWeb report, Marshall Kirkpatrick provides an example that shows how annotations can provide more insight as to how a topic can be analyzed over time. He notes that anyone referencing the 'President of the United States' or POTUS can analyze the sentiment of tweets, show where the predominance of those tweets are emanating from geographically and then not only show how those local sentiments change over time, but actually send out an alert when that sentiment starts to shift radically. This paradigm will usher in a whole new set of analytics for social media consultants to slice and dice data to determine intricate real-time trends.

Kirkpatrick says, "there are all kinds of interesting questions that could be tackled when the developer world's imagination runs wild on the terms of description applied to our messages." For instance, imagine being able to add an infinite number of hashtags to a post without wasting precious characters.

In some ways, Annotations are somewhat similar to Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol, which also adds metadata to the behavior of users on certain sites when they’re logged in. Like Facebook, it will make sense for advertisers to use Annotations to help them target users based on their interests - and to develop marketing campaigns accordingly.

So while we wait for this to all shake out, it's definitely moving Twitter closer to integrating with the next iteration of the Internet - the Semantic Web. What new standards we will be exposed to as a result are developing as we speak.

For additional insight as to how the Semantic Web will affect us in the brave new Web 3.0 world, check out these previous posts.