Twitter tripping over use of word, 'Tweet'

Chris Caceres · July 1, 2009 · Short URL:

Startup says it is 'uncomfortable' with third party developer using trademark

 With the explosive rise in popularity of Twitter, the company is beginning to become wary of how smaller companies, which make use of its API, incorporate some of Twitter’s branding elements into their own.

Twitter recently contacted a third-party developer saying it felt ‘uncomfortable’  with how they were using the word ‘Tweet’, among other things.  Here’s the e-mail, which TechCrunch got a hold of...


Twitter, Inc is uncomfortable with the use of the word Tweet (our trademark) and the similarity in your UI and our own. How can we go about having you change your UI to better differentiate your offering from our own?

What’s interesting here is that, Twitter, which once seemed to have its API doors wide open for developers to make use of, seems to be growing protective over its branding just now?

TweetDeck, Tweetboard, Tweetmeme, Twitpic, have been around for some time now, and plenty of others all make use of Twitter’s branding to some sense, whether by integrating the word somehow or simply ripping off the style and aesthetic of Twitter completely.

Let’s take a look at some logos from some of these companies in the Twitter ecosystem:

TweetDeck makes obvious use of the Twitter bird in its logo and the word 'Tweet'.  It doesn't really copy the font style or color scheme though.



Twitpic integrates 'Twit' in name.  Not quite Twitter, but close enough.  Follows similar color palette and rips off Twitter's font completely.



Tweetboard uses similar rounded font.  Stays away from the Twitter bird but keeps sky blue and white colors.



Tweetmeme.  Bird, same colors, you get the picture.


 Twitter, which recently applied a trademark to the word, 'Tweet,' responded to some minor media criticism, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter said in a blog post today,

We have applied to trademark Tweet because it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective but we have no intention of "going after" the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter. In fact, we encourage the use of the word Tweet. However, if we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important.

So it actually seems OK to make use of the word ‘Tweet’ in third party Twitter related projects.  But when it comes to using the word, ‘Twitter,’ the real-time update engine seems to have a problem.  Citing Biz Stone’s same blog post, he explained,

Regarding the use of the word Twitter in projects, we are a bit more wary although there are some exceptions here as well. After all, Twitter is the name of our service and our company so the potential for confusion is much higher. When folks ask us about naming their application with "Twitter" we generally respond by suggesting more original branding for their project. This avoids potential confusion down the line.

All in all, companies that make use of the Twitter API are obviously going to have some notable similarities to Twitter.  They are drawing from an engine that ultimately leads to one source.  So the question is, should these companies begin to try and separate themselves completely from the feel and look of Twitter when all the information on their services come from Twitter in the first place?  

Twitter is currently working on further fleshing out its guidelines and practices which seem to be getting more strict and confusing by the looks of things.

Image source - Tatooed Tees

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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.