— Alex Howard (@digiphile) September 21, 2012
Users might able to download all of their past tweets by the end of the year, according to reports from those attending Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s talk at the Online News Association conference. In response to Emily Bell, Director of Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Journalism School, Costolo said he would like to see the feature “Before the end of the year,” given their engineers’ capacity. In other words, being able to download your tweets is now a priority. Update: Twitter has confirmed to TechCrunch’s report of Costolo’s talk.
The two biggest alternatives to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ both allow users to download some of their information. Past tweets contain valuable information, such as links to forgotten news stories, statistics on who is most influential to a user, and an official record for when a tweet becomes the source of dispute.
Additionally, the call for open social network data has been part of a broader Internet movement to allow users to “switch” services should an alternative become available. For instance, Google’s open data team, the revolutionary-sounding Data Liberation Front, argues that users should only be with a service voluntarily, not because they’re technically locked to it:
We’re doing this because we want our users to stay with us because they want to. While locking users in is a way to keep them in the short term, we believe that the way to keep users in the long term is to keep innovating and making our products better so that they choose to stay with us. And besides, if someone stops using one of our products today, we hope that they would be willing to try one of our other products at some point in the future.
All of this is, of course, based on a statement uttered at a conference. We’ll dig for more information. Stay tuned.