First, Twitter announced it would be bringing a new Lists feature online to build groups right into the popular social networking site. Now it’s going a step further towards making the service more professionally relevant by introducing a Twitter Labs feature, according to The Next Web.
Like Google Labs and Facebook Prototypes before it, Twitter Labs will allow developers to test out new features for the site with a voluntary beta community prior to their official release. Not only that, but Labs would allow outside developers to create and work on add-ons and other features that could then become deeply integrated with Twitter itself, instead of just being relegated to external clients that use the API.
The news comes via the Future of Web Apps conference currently taking place in London, where Twitter engineer Britt Selvitelle made the announcement earlier today. Based on the announcement, it sounds like Twitter is planning something in between Mozilla’s Firefox add-ons and Google’s Labs (s goog) playground for experimental features.
While this is undoubtedly good news for people looking to get something more out of Twitter, I’m wondering if it doesn’t run counter to the core idea behind the service’s success to date. What I like about Twitter is its simplicity, as opposed to the layers and complexity of Facebook. While browsing Facebook is a time-consuming, involved process for me, it’s easy to keep Twitter active in the background all day, popping in and out when the mood strikes while still easily disengaging when necessary.
Twitter add-ons and apps threaten to complicate the process. I dread the day when my tweet timeline is cluttered with survey results and invitations to try out such-and-such disguised personal data mining application. Perhaps I’m being overly fatalistic, but Facebook’s track record shows that such things are possible.
On the other hand, with enough oversight on the part of Twitter, and with responsible API usage, Twitter Labs could open the door to making the service perfectly suited for each individual user. Until evidence proves otherwise, though, I remain skeptical.
What do you think of this announcement?