Say hello to the new kings of social media

Ronny Kerr · July 17, 2009 · Short URL:

New metrics show further growth of Facebook and Twitter, alongside hope for Myspace Music

New York City-based industry analyzer and tracker Nielsen released a report this week confirming with hard numbers from this past June what many have seen as exciting developments in the social media sphere.

The biggest news (which is starting to sound less like news and more like the status quo) is the tremendous growth rate of the micro-blogging service Twitter. The site saw a 1928% increase over the past year, according to Nielsen, from 1 million unique visitors in June 2008 to 21 million unique visitors in June 2009.

Though we will have to wait to see if internal executive memos projecting 350 million users at the end of 2011 is just a fantasy (right now, even Facebook only has 87.3 million unique users), the truth is that Twitter is, in 2009, a force to be reckoned with.

Despite Twitter’s wildfire-like growth, Facebook undeniably retains its title as the number one social networking website today. In June, users spent an average of 4 hours and 33 minutes on the site, a 240% increase over the year, says Nielsen’s report. And while Twitter saw a much more phenomenal growth rate—522%—from around five minutes to around 30 minutes, people are still staying on Facebook eight times as long as that.

Facebook vs Twitter

Before Facebook came along, Myspace was the place for social networking. The Web site, which seems to be consistently under scrutiny these days over its lack of direction (even CEO Owen Van Natta admits it), expanded into enough other realms of Internet entertainment that it has not fallen the quick death of other social networking sites made obsolete in the past.

Myspace Music, a whole division of the site dedicated to artist and band profile pages, has seen unique visitors grow from 4.2 million to 12.1 million, a 190% growth since the site’s launch in September 2008, according to Nielsen.

So, what’s to come? If Myspace plays their cards right, they may just have found their niche on the Internet. As for the other two, their blatant similarities cannot be ignored for much longer. Twitter and Facebook will likely heighten the competition in the next year.

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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.