Using Star Trek To Explain Winners & Losers In Twitter’s New Ecosystem “Quadrants”

Twitter announced new rules for accessing its data today and how those are designed to encourage certain types of products and services while discouraging others. It even published a “quadrant” chart to explain all this. The world of Star Trek has quadrants, too. I thought it would be fun and perhaps useful to blend the two for those who may be confused about what Twitter did today.

Safety In The Alpha Quadrant

Captain Kirk, from StarTrek.com

In Star Trek, the Alpha Quadrant is home to several core Federation worlds, including Earth (you know, where we live), Vulcan (even if you never watched Star Trek, you’ve heard of Spock’s home planet). Risa (the pleasure planet!), Betazed (where they get married naked) and Trill (home to Jadzia Dax, how I miss her).

OK, so maybe Vulcan is in the Beta Quadrant in some readings, but I like Memory Alpha’s take that Alpha Quadrant means friendly Federation space.

The Alpha Quadrant is what Captain Kirk through the best captain of all, Captain Janeway, fought to defend. (I acknowledge that saying Janeway was the best Star Trek captain ever may cause some to dismiss this story entirely, but the truth can’t be denied).

There’s nothing to fear, for the Federation, within the Alpha Quadrant. Similarly, Twitter is saying that companies that create products like social CRM, enterprise clients and do media campaign integration based on the Twitter platform have little to fear. Twitter doesn’t seem them as a threat. They’re a core part of the Twitter Federation.

Why no threat? These services will bring in money, bring in brands, help Twitter extend its content empire in ways it can’t do as well on its own. That’s my take, at least.

Truce In The Beta Quadrant

Klingons, from StarTrek.com

In Star Trek, the Beta Quadrant is largely home to civilizations that the Federation has fought with from time-to-time but mostly co-exists with through truces: the Klingons and the Romulans.

How’s that apply to the Twitter ecosystem? Twitter puts social analytics programs here.

Twitter itself offers social analytics, thus the potential rivalry with these products. But Twitter can’t do it all (my take), so products designed for businesses to help them better understand how Twitter is paying off is worth a truce.

The Big Unknown Of The Delta Quadrant

Neelix, A Delta Quadrant resident, from StarTrek.com

You’d think the scariest quadrant would be the Delta Quadrant, since that’s where the Borg come from. But there’s more than the Borg in the Delta Quadrant and still more to explore, despite Voyager’s travels there. And seriously, who’s afraid of Neelix?

I felt in terms of Twitter, the Delta Quadrant was most applicable for products aimed at consumers that it still wants to tolerate, such as Klout, which recently redesigned to reposition itself as a sort of social analytics tool for individuals.

Twitter could provide these services itself, but it’s already got plenty to do on the business front. So, tolerating the growth of tools for individuals seems to make sense to the company.

The Scary Gamma Quadrant

The Founders, changelings that rule The Gamma Quadrant, from StarTrek.com

That brings us to the Gamma Quadrant, which in Star Trek is home to The Dominion, ruled by The Founders.

The Founders are a race of changelings. They can look like other creatures. After a war with the Dominion, the Federation largely cut off access by mining the wormhole that provided fast access between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants.

Twitter is laying its own mines, in the form of tighter requirements of how products like Twitter clients for consumers or Twitter content syndication services can pull data from Twitter. This makes huge sense when compared to the Star Trek world.

Twitter’s building a business based on showing ads to consumers. The last thing it needs is a lot of services that, changeling-like, may be perceived by consumers as if they are Twitter. That’s why Twitter reiterated today the guidance it gave to “Gamma Quadrant” product makers before, writing:

Nearly eighteen months ago, we gave developers guidance that they should not build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” And to reiterate what I wrote in my last post, that guidance continues to apply today

I hope this guide to the quadrants of Twitter has been helpful. Now go watch some Star Trek. Explore StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek site where pictures above came from. And tweet about it.

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.jtdabbagian.com/ James Dabbagian

    The Gamma stuff itself is disconcerting. By its logic, we could say goodbye to Twitter Chats because the tools that allow us to have them could be considered a “replication” of the Twitter service. I hope that doesn’t happen. 

  • http://www.paligap.com/ Iain Bartholomew

    Love the concept, love the execution. Now I just need DS9 on blu ray.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    If it’s a tool that helps businesses do this, much more safe. Anything designed for businesses is helpful.

  • http://twitter.com/TheDarklit George Featherstone

    Janeway = no way. Kirk 4 evaaa. 

    Oh and IMO Twitter is declining as a preferred method of social engagement I’m afraid. I wish more people would be active on G+. 

    Good article though, (except for the one glaring error), nice analogy.

  • http://twitter.com/evanneste evanneste

    Congrats for you recognition of Captain Janeway – my idol!  Oh, and I thought the quadrant analogy was helpful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=535260227 Jeff Kean

    Janeway was second best Ill give you that. Picard is/has/and always will be the best Captain…..The line must be drawn here, no further!!!

  • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog Mandy Kilinskis

    Thanks for the great analogy. Definitely helps us non-developers!

    Also, Janeway is by far the best. Kirk’s action mixed with Picard’s cool logic.

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