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Supernova Will Twitter turn itself into an email-like open protocol? It's thinking about it.

"There's an ongoing discussion within the company about the merits of decentralization and whether it's really possible and, if it is possible, how it would work," Twitter chief operating officer Dick Costolo told the gathered tech types at today's Supernova shindig in downtown San Francisco.

As it stands, at least one person on earth believes an open Twitter is vitally important to the future of the universe. "It is possible!" someone howled from the audience before Costolo could complete his thought.

The COO barely broke his stride: "The question is: Does [decentralization] cause what it means to be Twitter to be so diffuse that it ruins things? Or is it better?"

Twitter is a way for people to flood the world with self-serving mini-messages - or, as Tim 2.0'Reilly calls them, "activity streams."

2.0'Reilly moderated today's panel on, um, "Real Time Flow Track," which included not only Twitter's Costolo but engineers from Google and MySpace, two companies promoting somewhat similar real-time feed technologies. Google engineer Brett Slatkin has developed a messaging protocol known as PubSubHubbub, designed to provide real-time feeds from, well, almost anything, and 2.0'Reilly wondered whether Twitter should follow suit.

MySpace's Monica Keller (title: Group Architect for the Stream) asked much the same thing - in more pointed fashion. "The question is: Should everyone else adopt Twitter's native format?" she asked, before turning to Costolo. "I do wish you guys would work more with the community. I'm not really sure [why you don't]."

Costolo promptly pointed out that Twitter has a MySpace partnership that swaps data between the two. But he wouldn't be drawn on how he - and the company - view an open protocol. "We're discussing it," he repeated. ®

Top three mobile application threats

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