SXSW: Twitter to Launch @Anywhere, Fails to Live Up to SXSW Hype

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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