I have to say how insanely jealous I am of Twitter's success.
I had written apps like it a few times using SMS as a base - simple and short posts to channels sorts of apps - like a more dynamic Upoc. But I didn't ever stumble on the right combo of features that Twitter did to make it interesting/viral/compelling. In fact, I had a meeting about Twitter years ago at Yahoo! where I remember explicitly saying that I thought it was a great service (as I had done something similar), but that it obviously needed some sort of channels or groups or something to cut out the noise. I was wrong, and would have screwed it up if I was in charge - look at how empty Jaiku's channels are to see what I mean.
That said, I *wanted* to do something just like Twitter. I could see the value, and knew in my gut it could be great. Even more years ago, I was shopping for a laptop while using Wireless IRC on my then shiny new Nokia 7650 and was amazed at how useful it was to be in contact with groups of people where ever you went. Out and about, or back at your desk having that IRC channel running all the time in the background, there to share links or thoughts with. The idea of that group of friends in the sky is super compelling. I knew it back then, I knew it when Twitter launched, but I'm just bummed I wasn't able to tap into it myself.
THEN, a few weeks ago, I tweaked the Twitter Search stuff so that you could interact with Twitter based on search or tag-based channels and created Roomatic. I thought it was super useful and a few others as well, but it didn't seem to attract any notice. And then last night Twitter launches their Elections microsite and it's exactly the same, except focused just on presidential keywords. Cool!
Hey, I didn't create the Summize search engine, nor their API, nor invent anything super-new, but I could see the value in the whole system enough to know where it was going. I never thought Roomatic was going to be anything huge, but the fact that the Twitter Elections is so much like it proves I was right in my thinking, which is great. People are raving about the Twitter elections site, and I agree. I love watching the flow of opinions. I was trying to tell people about Roomatic saying, "Look! You can view all these posts about a topic from everyone! I saw the Sarah Palin 'little known facts' meme arriving in real time as it was happening!" It's nice that I don't feel like such a nut job any more. :-)
Anyways, I think it's very cool that Twitter is having so much success and is now breaking out into the general popular culture. Fer chrisake, Al Gore is stopping by their offices, and CNN is using them in shows... it's a phenomenon. I think if there was one startup that I wish I had done, it would've been them.