The easiest way to think of annotations is as “invisible hashtags” that will allow tweets to be used in all sorts of exciting new ways and all sorts of interesting data to be attached. Although Twitter doesn’t know when annotations will launch, it estimates it will be around two months until a limited rollout begins.
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The details released today to the Twitter Developers Google Group are quite technical but here are some of the juicy details we can extract from them:
- Tweets can have as many ‘annotations’ as developers can fit into 512 bytes of space that will be attached to each tweet. This could be one large annotation, or lots of small ones. Twitter hopes to increase the size of this “attachment” to 2kB per tweet eventually, allowing for many more annotations.
- The data attached doesn’t have to be simple text. Twitter suggests examples such as MIDI data (for music) or emoji (for fancy emoticons).
- Twitter wants to make the annotations as open as possible, so developers won’t be able to have “private” annotations that only work with one app, for example. That doesn’t mean, of course that every Twitter app will automatically be able to understand every type of annotation.
- Annotations have to be added to a tweet at the time it is created – you can’t add more data to it later.
- As for how annotations should be used, Twitter is open for developers to use their imaginations, writing:
“Annotations are a blank slate that lend themselves to myriad divergent use cases. We want to provide open-ended utility for all the developers to innovate on top of.
Some of us have initial ideas of cool potential uses cases that I’m sure we’ll start to share just to seed the conversation as we get closer to launch. Developers will experiment with annotations.
Certain ideas and approaches will catch on. Certain annotations will become standards democratically because everyone agrees. Some might have diverging opinions. It’s something that we hope will grow organically and be driven by sociological and cultural forces.”
Annotated tweets are going to be huge. As Twitter ends its note to developers, “Think big. Blow our minds.”
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