Maybe Twitter should pull a Yammer

Josh Chandler · October 17, 2008 · Short URL:

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone talks to Rafe Needleman about 'commercial usage'

Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, answered some questions from Rafe Needleman of CNet's Webware about how Twitter is currently performing, some interesting points arose. I think since the recent changes with Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams occurred, this provided a pinnacle moment to really ask some important questions of the Twitter team.

One thing I just wanted to point out quickly was CNet's analogy of why Jack and Evan swapped roles. Caroline Mccarthy of CNet said it was " time to get real," which was slightly harsh.

Jack Dorsey did some fantastic work for the team whilst being CEO of Twitter. Evan even put this in his blog post about the move saying that "Jack took Twitter through an order of magnitude of growth and two major rounds of financing, while safely navigating some very rocky waters that would have taken even more experienced leaders down with the ship."

Even despite various issues that the Twitter community acknowledged, such as no SMS updates outside of the US, Jack did create a fantastically-dynamic product which really got people communicating in a new way. He should be commended for that. I simply believe this change was a positive one, although we are yet to see what happens.

The one key point I wanted to address from this email interview was how Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said that "We've watched with interest as commercial usage of Twitter has taken off and really started growing. We think there are some very interesting opportunities so we're modeling some scenarios there as well as other opportunities."

Now, I am intrigued to know what commercial uses this may be, and if there is such great commercial usage will it turn them a profit or revenue at all! I mean, it's been great to see rounds of financing going so well for the team, but where is the money for them?

I won't try sounding like a resounding broken record in this article because I would simply be echoing much of what has already been written recently, here is an article from ReadwriteWeb on the matter that is worth a look. There has even been some thorough discussion over at Webmasterworld about it.

In my opinion I expect we could see a corporate or premium version of Twitter coming through, something that will beat, recent Techcrunch 50 winner to a pulp, if Twitter was to implement this feature correctly with their audience I reckon they could make profit pretty rapidly.

I get the sense that overall from this interview Biz Stone did with Rafe Needleman, that he is quietly optimistic but has a very clear "never say never" attitude of the future of the company, which in the current climate will prove vital to Twitter staying afloat. But how long do you think Twitter will leave it until they "turn on a business model that produces revenues?"

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.