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Summary:

After attendees waited an hour see the event, Twitter CEO Evan Williams’ keynote at SXSW disappointed thanks to a lackluster product launch with @Anywhere, and a dull interview by Havas Media Lab director Umair Haque which had the audience tweeting complaints and finally leaving.

While the Twitter keynote had SXSW attendees lining up an hour beforehand, with many being turned away from an auditorium fitting thousands, and volunteers flagging every last empty seat for a willing occupant, it wasn’t the festival highlight many had hoped. An hour-long vague and high-level conversation between Twitter CEO Evan Williams and Havas Media Lab director Umair Haque had listeners yawning, turning to their phones to complain on Twitter, and outright leaving. As I write — three-quarters of the way through the session — I’m surrounded by vacated seats.

Twitter CEO Evan Williams speaks on the jumbotron to a room full of vacated seats.

Williams did take the first few minutes of the presentation to preview a new Twitter product called @Anywhere. He described it as an “at platform,” playing on the similar-sounding “ad platform” and “app platform.” @Anywhere seems to be like Facebook Connect, in that it allows users to log in around the web with their Twitter IDs (something that’s already somewhat possible today), but it’s also more oriented towards consumption and publisher tools. It will allow content creators to invite readers to follow authors on Twitter directly from the page, and bring in information from Twitter when users hover over a button.

For users, Williams said, “Discovery is one of the hardest challenges — it’s putting these things in context where you’re already reading them.” And for publishers, @Anywhere will “give you a connection back to users that you didn’t necessarily have before, and keep them coming back.”

The product has no launch date, but it does have launch partners: Amazon, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, Digg, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, Yahoo and YouTube. Twitter’s Biz Stone writes in a blog post released during the presentation:

“Imagine being able to follow a New York Times journalist directly from her byline, tweet about a video without leaving YouTube, and discover new Twitter accounts while visiting the Yahoo! home page—and that’s just the beginning.”

However, the world Stone describes that doesn’t sound that futuristic; you can already do many such things through integrations made by sites themselves or with the help of products like Tweetmeme.

I don’t think Twitter lost any users today, but it might have burst a few admirers’ bubblicious ideas of the company.

For the GigaOM network’s complete SXSW coverage, check out this round-up.

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  1. Unless he announced an ad system today then people were never going to be happy.

    I don’t think its a big announcement but I hate it when people announce stuff and then not let you buy or use it right away.

  2. Eric D Brown Monday, March 15, 2010

    Maybe I’m dense…but I don’t see the value in @anywhere…like you say, much of what they announced is available elsewhere. Perhaps @anywhere will provide a more robust solution?

  3. Frankly I have no idea about what they announced. I think it seems like “let’s announce something situation” and I hope Twitter does actually outline its plans to take on Facebook Connect more broadly. I think they are the only player to actually stand up against Facebook.

  4. Since when is it anyone’s job to live up to the ridiculous expectations of others cultivated by link-bait generating “tech” blogs.

    1. I think people at SXSW genuinely love Twitter and wanted to hear what Ev would say. Rumors about the monetization platform launch weren’t the only thing top of mind.

  5. SXSW 2010: All You Need to Know, Courtesy of the GigaOM Network – GigaOM Monday, March 15, 2010

    [...] Calls Out Google and Facebook for Abusing Users’ Privacy See All Articles » SXSW: Twitter to Launch @Anywhere, Fails to Live Up to [...]

  6. There are already plenty of useless twitter widgets. Most blogs have them. Frankly, I think they’re terrible, but who am I?

    This is most certainly put out so they had something to say. Nothing more.

  7. Just curious: what exactly happened at the keynote that caused people to mass-abandon it? I understand that Twitter might not have had the most exciting product announcement, but you typically don’t see people abandon a talk like that. What else did they discuss?

    1. The talk tended more towards business theory and other things the moderator was interested in, and it wasn’t a great fit for that crowd. I’m not sure it merited the mass departure but I think people wanted something more lively, newsy and relevant to the social media/techie leanings of the conference. They also have a really low tolerance for moderators who spend a lot of time talking about themselves, just like with the Sarah Lacy/Facebook keynote interview a couple years ago.

  8. Ev Williams: More @Anywhere Details at Chirp – GigaOM Monday, March 15, 2010

    [...] Calls Out Google and Facebook for Abusing Users’ Privacy See All Articles » SXSW: Twitter to Launch @Anywhere, Fails to Live Up to [...]

  9. Twitter CEO Ev Williams: Further @Anywhere Details at Chirp Conference | AniChaos.com Monday, March 15, 2010

    [...] Earlier this morning during a keynote at SxSW, Twitter CEO and co-founder Evan Williams announced the availability of Twitter’s @Anywhere platform. It is an identity system and is widely viewed as an answer to Facebook Connect. It allows Twitter subscribers to use their Twitter credentials and login to third party services. This morning’s announcement was short on details and left me scratching my head. [...]

  10. Twitter’s @anywhere: Not a Bang But a Whimper – GigaOM Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    [...] Calls Out Google and Facebook for Abusing Users’ Privacy See All Articles » SXSW: Twitter to Launch @Anywhere, Fails to Live Up to [...]

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