“I find it intriguing … I love the idea of enforced constraints,” Lawley says, referring to the 140-character limit on Twitter and the 12-second limit on 12seconds. “I think constraints bring out wonderful creativity. Without constraints, what we do and think isn’t as interesting.”
But, Lawley notes, video microblogging isn’t necessarily the next phase of microblogging. 12seconds suffers from the same problem that has kept video blogs from usurping the popularity of text blogs: it simply takes too long to get to the point. Lawley says that she can scan a page of 25 tweets in about six seconds and have a good idea of what they’re about. Additionally, she can scan tweets while she’s occupied with other tasks, such as sitting in a meeting or attending a talk at a conference. Video, however, requires that a viewer focus her aural and visual attention, and it’s impossible to quickly scan large numbers of videos. “This is where video and audio really fall apart,” Lawley says. “That 12 seconds is much more of a commitment. It’s something we might be willing to do for our most intimate ties, but it’s unscalable.”
Lipman hopes that the early interest in 12seconds will translate into continued growth for the company. In the coming weeks, 12seconds will offer software that will let outside programmers build applications using its technology. Allowing programmers to use its platform is one of the important reasons that Twitter caught on as it has: the more people write programs for the service, the more visible it becomes. And visibility leads to more users, which is the name of the game in the social Web industry.
Another lesson learned from Twitter, says Lipman, is to be aware, from the beginning, of the challenges of adding more users to the service. Over the past year, Twitter’s service has crashed innumerable times. One of the culprits is the programming language in which it was written, Ruby on Rails–it simply isn’t designed to operate the large-scale e-scale communication infrastructure that Twitter has become. Lipman says that his team has picked a different programming language that scales well for the application that 12seconds intends, but this still doesn’t mean that the service will be without its hiccups. “That’s why we have this alpha stage,” he says. “As we’re going through this, we’re watching what causes problems.”