Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said he wants the service to become as ubiquitous and simple as tap water. But he should be careful what he wishes for.
Search Engine Land is already asking, “Twitter As Utility, Like Running Water?” The thing about water is that it tends to be an indispensable natural monopoly, and therefore regulated. Twitter today controls access to its “firehose” of tweet data, but access to utilities like water is mandated open and prices are set by regulators.
As I discussed recently on the podcast with Danny Sullivan, some have already suggested Google should be treated like a utility and brought under a regime of “search neutrality.” Harvard’s danah boyd has been banging the “regulate Facebook as a utility” drum for quite some time. And Just today Wharton’s Kevin Werbach put out a draft of his new law review article: “The Network Utility.”
Of course, as I already mentioned, it’s unsurmountable monopolies that should be regulated, and it would be a stretch to say that either Facebook or Twitter qualify. But I fear we’ll be hearing more and more of this “utility” language in the near future.