A friend recently asked me why I like Twitter. I find this a difficult question to answer, much like explaining Twitter is difficult. You can explain what is is in a couple sentences, but to explain why you would want to use it is much more difficult. That's not because there aren't good reasons and everyone on Twitter is just being silly... quite the contrary, I find it difficult because there are lots of reasons, but none of them are easy to quantify.
It's a little bit like "why do you like to hang out with your friends?" or even "why are your friends your friends?" Quantifying an answer may not be so easy, it's complex and involves more than simple logical thought processes.
Now, some people (a lot of people now, it seems) are on Twitter because it's "the next big thing" and they're in PR or media or "social media" and Twitter is just another channel to deliver a message or content. That's not me. I'm not there to promote anything, and I largely ignore those who are.
I started on Twitter in part because there was a growing population of Houston folks, across a bunch of my interests (start-ups, software, photography, music, etc.), getting on Twitter. The majority of the people I follow are local, and Twitter has been a catalyst for networking with good people on both business and personal levels, and continuing to interact with them.
I've tried to describe Twitter as "social networking at the right speed", meaning it's "faster" than Facebook, MySpace, or email, but "slower" than IM. You don't expect to have a conversation like you would on IM, but you do expect to have conversations. They're just slower and more fault tolerant.
Part of what makes Twitter work is that it's perfectly flat. You don't join the right groups, friend the right bands, etc., you're just you. Everyone is just themselves (except for those in the PR camp, but we're ignoring them). People don't get silo-ed into buckets, you just get the people, with all their interests, all their comments on the world. The same people will be talking about photography one minute, programming the next minute, music after that, etc. You get a picture of a whole person, and discover that people are pretty interesting.
And on the other end of the spectrum, Twitter is global, so I have occasional interactions with people from all over the world, again in this flat space that's just a bunch of people. The "just a bunch of people" flatness and connectedness seems to have fostered a culture of respect and openness, vs. the somewhat flame-war-ish culture that has developed (to a certain extent) around blogs.
Twitter is direct. I can work out lunch arrangements or a meeting about a business opportunity very quickly, with multiple people, from anywhere, as long as I have at least SMS access. This gets at the heart of what Twitter is... Twitter is another level of indirection (for you C programmers), or another layer (for you networking people), for connecting people, and that, combined with its simplicity and ease of operation, makes it very powerful. It's a big lever and a light touch is all you need.
Twitter is casual. Most of the conversations I have on Twitter are the kinds of conversations I might have with friends. They aren't stuck in some "virtual" reality, they extend into day-to-day life. Most people on Twitter are real and they share mundane things right next to big things, and that's part of what makes it refreshing. Humans "do life" in little moments, in ordinary activities. Real relationships come from sharing those things, and the flatness, immediacy, and simplicity of Twitter allow that kind of sharing to actually work on the Internet.
Finally, Twitter is a powerful tool for "grass-roots" information. All of that connectedness and genuine interaction leads to a lot of real-time information sharing, everything from restaurant criticism to traffic reports to emergencies, with real results. Real people help each other, inform each other, etc. This is what the media have picked up on and part of why they now can't speak a sentence without saying something about Twitter.
To really "get" Twitter, you need to really use it and follow people and interact and grow your "network" enough to where these things start to happen. So there is some intentional effort involved. Maybe I hit it at the right time, but it has really been worth whatever effort I've put in. My life is significantly enriched because of the people I know on Twitter.
So that's some of what I love about Twitter. Maybe it answers the question. You can follow me on Twitter if you like. I follow real people back most of the time.
I love the famous Mark Twain quote, "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics."
TUAW seems to have forgotten that in a pretty pathetic post about the Japanese not wanting the iPhone. Or maybe they're just groping for traffic. Or maybe they're just parroting the news article without thinking about it.
The title of the article is "Survey: 91% of Japanese don't want an iPhone". Assuming that's true, that would be almost as many iPhones sold in Japan as sold in the US in its entire first year (roughly 11 million and 14 million, respectively). 95% of US Americans (snicker) didn't want an iPhone either.