Twitter, disenchantment and etymology

Mt friend Michael Dales has written a thoughtful blog post triggered by disagreement with something I wrote about Twitter in my Observer column.

Here’s the relevant para:

This new disenchantment with Twitter seems daft to me. […] as for the API restrictions, well, Twitter isn’t a charity. Those billions of tweets have to be processed, stored, retransmitted – and that costs money. Twitter has already had more than $1bn of venture capital funding. Like Facebook, it has to make money, somehow. Otherwise it will disappear. Even on the internet there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Michael says:

I agree with John’s reasoning, but not his conclusion that it’s daft. The reason why is this: in an effort to make money, Twitter is changing the product. I think it’s similarly daft to me (sorry John :), to assume that just because I liked product A, when it’s changed into product B, I should like it just as much. I don’t disagree that Twitter needs to find a revenue stream, or object that it should make changes to make that happen. I don’t agree however that I should like the new Twitter just because I liked the old Twitter.

I now have to repay the compliment. I agree with Michael’s reasoning. It’s not ‘daft’ for him to come to his conclusion.

The problem — I now realise — lies in my casual use of the term ‘daft’. When I wrote that the “new disenchantment with Twitter seems daft to me” I should perhaps have used the word “naive”. At any rate, what was in my mind as I wrote the sentence was that it’s naive or unrealistic to expect that a service that is expensive to provide can continue forever without its owners seeking to commercialise it in some way.

The etymology of ‘daft’ is interesting btw. The wonderful Online Etymology Dictionary says that it derives from the Old English gedæfte — meaning “gentle” or “becoming” — and sees a progression over the centuries from “mild” (c.1200) to “dull” (c.1300) to “foolish” (mid-15c.) to “crazy” (1530s).