Top-story roundup, Episode 4

Meliza Solan Surdi · November 30, 2008 · Short URL:

Nice try, Facebook; SEC calls for Prosper to shut down; Online shopping looking dismal

Here's three top stories we covered on VatorNews this past week.

Can you believe Twitter turned down Facebook's half a billion dollar offer? Twitter, which was recently valued at about $100 million dollars, is also known as the fastest growing micro-blogging site. Facebook, the fastest growing social network, which was valued at an inflated $15 billion dollars, offered all stock to Twitter. But Twitter's newsfeed would only take Facebook's newsfeed to new levels. So, it's plain to see why Twitter thumbed its nose at Facebook. At least you tried, Facebook.

See: Twitter rejects Facebook's $500 mln offer

Beware of matchmaking sites on the Web that bring together borrowers and lenders of money - Prosper, a P2P lending site, which received a cease-and-desist letter from the SEC. Does this signal a wave of shutdowns across the Web for matchmaking shutdowns? Maybe. But given the global financial crisis, should this focus really be the SEC's top priority?

See: SEC calls for Prosper to shut down

Since e-commerce sales have declined about 4 % for the first two weeks in November, it's obvious that online holiday shopping is shaping up to be as bad as the bricks-and-mortar variety this year.

How about those gift cards, or last minute presents that would at least be more decent than a re-gifted fruitcake? Thank goodness we probably will not be receiving them this holiday season.

Bad news? If you happen to have already received them, they are probably are worth the same as the sentiment that went into giving them... not a whole lot.

See: Gift-buying elves abandon shopping





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Money and lending is typically controlled by large institutions. Prosper wants to change that.



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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.