Is Twitter a utility like water?

by on February 15, 2011 · 2 comments

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.

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