A few of the gazillion
Twitter apps and clients

If you’ve ever wondered why Twitter is so gigantic, it may be because you’ve only looked at Twitter one way: on the website Twitter.com (where, by the way, you can find Hammock Inc here: @hammockinc).
But to better understand Twitter, and why it is so important, you must think of it as more than a website. Indeed, there are millions of Twitter users who rarely, if ever, visit the Twitter website.

Viewing Twitter Content via a Twitter Client
For example, there are countless Twitter clients, computer software applications, web-applications and mobile “apps” that are created by companies and individuals independent from Twitter that allow users to post or read Twitter content. These clients are designed for special purposes and special types of use, and provide various ways for individuals to manage and display content from Twitter. Such clients can be dashboard-like (one example: Twitterific) or category-bending new ideas like Flipboard. (And, literally, thousands more).

Twitter.com displayed with
PowerTwitter browser extension

One of the reasons Twitter is so gigantic is that Twitter’s creators granted the permission and provided the tools and methods for third-party developers to create such “third-party” Twitter-related products — for free. (Some heavy-duty users of Twitter data have special relationships that enable them to have even more access.
Twitter content can also be viewed in on millions of websites in the content boxes called “widgets” that appear in the sidebar of websites and blogs. At Hammock, we have used such display of tweets on several projects.
Viewing Twitter.com in New Ways
One of the downsides of being a third-party developer of applications that run “on-top”  of a product like Twitter is the knowledge that Twitter will continuously add new features that “fill holes” in the service — so if a “product” is something that Twitter believes is merely a “missing feature,” that “product” is likely going to one day be redundant to something on Twitter, itself.
For example, to the right you can see a screen shot of what Twitter.com looks like if you are using a browser extension called Power Twitter that enables a layer of features that could one day be offered by Twitter, itself. Currently, with the third-party extension activated, the user can embed into the Twitter stream the photos and videos that are linked to by others. (This feature is a part of several Twitter “dashboard” clients, as well.) It also translates the truncated URLs that are character-saving tactics used by Twitter users into a full-description of what the linked-to content is. In other words, the extension pulls in content to my personal display of Twitter.com on my computer desktop, making the site appear more like what one might expect to see on Facebook or certain RSS newsreaders.
So the next time you have a hard time understanding why Twitter is important to a project, it may just be because of how you’re viewing it.
[A longer (geekier) version of this post appears on RexBlog.com]