On the 9th day of July, 2006, the final game of the World Cup was being played. In France vs. Italy, it was Italy that was ultimately victorious mainly due to Zidane’s idiotic headbutt in the 110th minute.
In that same month, a small little website that had been previously been used internally by the staff at odeo.com was made public and thus, Twitter was born–after the World Cup. Quite a bit has changed in these last four years with Twitter having grown from a couple of people trading quick notes back and forth to a massive ecosystem of applications that claims 190 millions users. But, how will this massive user base effect the World Cup outside of maybe a couple of Trending topics?
Where are the users?
I have no idea as to Twitter’s user base in South Africa. While there is the new short URL service, mzan.si (which really is the kind of thing for Twitter), there is no mobile shortcode for South African mobile users and thus no mobile access. Under the Geo Trending settings, there also isn’t South Africa as an option. Naturally, it’s true that both of these items could change before Friday’s kickoff, but you’d think they’d already be there to grow interest. So it seems that currently those on Twitter from SA are either using the web version or are visitors texting back home while roaming.
How’s the technology?
Twitter is based in San Francisco. In the past this has caused a number of problems when a large burst of users outside of UTC-8 got fired up on the service. South Africa is currently in UTC+1 and most games will be happening in what is the middle of the night for the American West Coast. While FailWhales are only sporadic creatures these days, how will monitoring of the system work during the time when most anyone at the World Cup (or watching the games live) would tweet it? I know I’d hate to be a sysadmin for the next month and a half.
Does it matter?
While users in the US have taken to tweeting every sniffle, sports are a slightly different beast. Television has its obvious appeal and listening to games on the radio can be fun because there’s personality, but ironically I doubt that 140 characters can actually produce any real character. I’m already prepared for GOOOOOOAL! spelled out to the entire length of the text field, but really, will anyone care?
I know I won’t give a damn about viewing Twitter to see what’s happening at the matches. I want to actually watch them. This is important and it’s probably a huge part of the reason why the power cuts have suddenly dried up in Côte d’Ivoire because if you take away the ability to watch soccer, there will be blood. But, if you take away Twitter in the middle of the World Cup will there be a sound? Yeah, the sound of “GOOOOOOOAL!”
So here it is, possibly the largest test of Twitter on an international level to date. It will go a long way to showing how stable the platform is and if someday it could be used by first responders in an emergency. Then again, maybe no one at the World Cup will give a damn about tweeting and be much happier drinking and enjoying the country.