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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a data mangler in London working for Dunnhumby

Whatever happened to Twitter Annotations?

In April 2010 Twitter announced a new feature that they would soon be introducing - Twitter Annotations. Put simply Twitter Annotations can be described as the ability to attach metadata to a tweet; think hashtags on steroids. Lots of people were quite excited about it:

I love to sit on the beach.  One of the coolest things about the beach is the number of layers of visual depth.  Look at the sand and it's beautiful, but zoom your eyes in closer and you'll see a whole layer of life running around on the sand that you didn't see before.  Look even closer and you can see individual grains of sand, water and light dancing between them.  Look closer still and you see that each grain of sand is a unique object with its own texture.  If your eyes are strong enough, or you have a machine to help you, you can see even more layers by looking closer still. That's what Twitter is going to be like with the launch of Twitter Annotations this Summer. It's a beautiful vision, with huge potential

What Twitter Annotations mean by Marshall Kirkpatrick


Today at the Twitter Chirp Hack Day I talked with a ton of developers and the new feature they were most interested in. Adam Jackson echoed everyone I’ve heard today when he tweeted “Twitter Annotations is what I’ve been wanting FOREVER.”

Developers: how will we all get along with Twitter’s annotation feature? by Robert Scoble


Twitter announced a series of new features at its Chirp conference in April, ...the one that has the most potential to change the way the social network functions in fundamental ways is Annotations, which Twitter said would be rolled out in the second quarter of the year ... Annotations would allow developers (and Twitter itself, of course) to add additional information to a tweet — such as a string of text, a URL, a location tag or bits of data — without affecting its character count. In other words, such information would be metadata about the tweet or the user who posted it, and would be carried along as an additional payload as it traveled through the Twitter network. Apps and services could then collect that information and filter it or make sense of it. In some ways, Annotations are like Facebook’s open graph protocol, which also adds metadata to the behavior of users on certain sites when they’re logged in

Twitter Annotations Are Coming — What Do They Mean For Twitter and the Web? by Matthew Ingram


What <others> did not mention is what I think is potentially the most fascinating use of opening up annotations. Google’s success today is built on their page rank algorithm that measures the validity of a web page by the number of incoming links to it and the page rank of the sites containing those links – its a system built on reputation. Twitter annotations could open up a new paradigm however – let’s call it People rank- where reputation can be measured by the metadata that people choose to apply to links and the websites containing those links. Its not hard to see why Google and Microsoft have paid big bucks to get access to the Twitter firehose!

Interesting things – Twitter annotations and your phone as a web server by Jamie Thomson (i.e. me!)


Twitter themselves said in May 2010:

We will continue to move as quickly as we can to deliver the Annotations capability to the market so that developers everywhere can create innovative new business solutions on the growing Twitter platform.

The Twitter Platform


That was 20 months ago. The question I now ask is....where are they? Evidently I'm not the only one asking that question because in a thread entitled How can I try the Annotations API? in November 2011 Gustavo Frederico asked:

How can I try the Annotations API? I'm looking forward to trying it out.

 To which Taylor Singletary (a Twitter employee) replied:

Annotations is still more concept then reality. Maybe some day we'll have more to say about them. 18 months the situation has have gone from "We will continue to move as quickly as we can to deliver the Annotations capability to the market" & "rolled out in the second quarter of the year" to "Annotations is still more concept then reality", that's quite a climb-down if you ask me. I have strong hopes that Twitter Annotations will be with us eventually but the deafening silence isn't particularly encouraging.


You might ask why I am bothered, I am only a SQL Server developer after all. That is true but I still consider that my job can loosely be defined as extracting value from data and from that perspective the onslaught of data (nay, structured data) that Twitter Annotations would bring should be of interest to both myself and my clients.

I am also fascinated as to how Twitter Annotations could work with which is heavily backed by Google and Microsoft and which Microsoft are pushing as the backbone of Contracts in Windows 8 ( is mentioned in this video from the Build conference).

So, I ask again, whatever happened to Twitter Annotations? Does anyone know?


Update: Apparently I'm not the only person thinking this:

Published Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:46 AM by jamiet
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Matt Secoske said:

I do not know specifically, but I have a hunch. When they announced that at Chirp, I was sitting there thinking "They are insane".  The amount of data and processing and bandwidth they were taking on was orders of magnitude larger than anything they had seen at that point. I would not be surprised if they realized that while testing the feature out shortly thereafter. The fascination with annotations quickly died down, so they didn't really bother with it much after that.

I do not see them being able to handle that amount of effort any time in the near future... if ever.

January 25, 2012 11:14 AM

jamiet said:

Hi Matt,

Interesting perspective. I kinda think that if FB can build an infrastructure to cope with the mountains of data that the Open Graph is going to create then why can't Twitter? You may be right tho...


January 25, 2012 11:33 AM

Claire said:

They haven't killed it, but it was taking much longer than expected, and the team working on it is focusing on site stability now, as it's a more pressing concern. Hopefully once they get a better handle on scaling out, they'll be able to pick up annotations again.

January 25, 2012 1:39 PM

Jamie Thomson said:

Some definitions: Cortana – Microsoft’s digital personal assistant, competing with Apple’s Siri and Google

May 1, 2014 4:34 AM

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