Twitter has transformed how people around the world communicate, from the mass political uprisings of 2011’s Arab Spring to how we anoint celebrities and cultural decision makers.
It does this partly because it is ubiquitous and fast. But how does it manage to send out over 400 million tweets a day? Not surprisingly, the service is powered not by a bloated, profit-driven technology, but rather by an open source system that has been painstakingly refined by people passionate about quality: Linux.
Twitter recently became a silver member of the Linux foundation, which helps the service maintain both its speed and incredible global reach. The membership is important on a more symbolic level, as well. While many companies compete in a race with each other to see which organization can earn the highest profits, companies like Twitter and Linux are still focused on creating the highest quality products and services with the end user in mind. This emphasis on creating an excellent tool, and not a flashy but cumbersome product, has earned Linux a reputation as one of the finest open source products in existence.
For its part, Twitter has allowed itself to be refined by individual user experience. Over the years, the service has added new features slowly and kept the basic interface as simple as possible. User feedback plays a vital role in how the service structures its feed. The basic goal of Twitter has not yet been altered or damaged by the pressures of commercialism. Even though the service features “sponsored tweets,” these do not significantly interfere with the content that is posted to any individual user’s feed.
As Twitter increasingly becomes a bulwark of international communication, the trick will be in maintaining the open source ethos that has garnered it so much praise. Linux has resisted pressure to commercialize itself in a way that would place a profit motive above a quality motive. Government pressure may force both companies to change their modus operandi in order to adhere to a more traditional model of information gate keeping.
Open source, however, seeks to help people and ideas connect with one another in a way that benefits a large pool of people. In their own ways, Twitter and Linux have helped create services that are about quality connection, not profitable division.