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Social networking monster awakens to its infallible ability to track trends
It used to ask you, “What are you doing?” Now it suggests you “see what people are saying.”
Twitter, last night, unveiled a completely redesigned home page for the booming social networking site. Admitting that their site has evolved greatly since its inception as a simple status update service, the team at Twitter believes the site’s new front page directly expresses what the site is used for now—a place on the Internet to instantly witness worldwide buzz about everything, from sports to art to politics to just about anything.
Underneath a prominently highlighted search tool and “Sign up now” button rests the most important addition to the home page: “Popular topics by the minute, day, and week.”
Even in this one quick snapshot, we gain a wealth of information. For example, while tweets about “Blue M&Ms” and “William Shatner” may have shot up in the past minute , those could be fleeting trends in the face of “Harry Potter” or, more especially, “#iranelection,” which has been a top trending topic since the heated protests of a controversial presidential election held last month. Clicking any of the trends, of course, instantly loads up real-time results of the chosen topic, with new results every second made available through a refresh.
On the Twitter Blog post announcing the page redesign, co-founder Biz Stone confronts the ever-present question of why anyone in their right mind would waste their time tweeting:
“Defining a ‘tweet’ for the uninitiated and explaining how to create an account doesn't resonate with everyone. ‘Why would I want to do that?’ is a common reaction. However, demonstrating the power of Twitter as a discovery engine for what is happening right now through our Search and Trends often awakens a sense of wonder which inevitably leads to a much more compelling question, ‘How do I get involved?’”
And he’s right.
Enabling you to read what your sister happens to be eating for lunch is not why Twitter is so popular. Rather, the site’s tracking of the latest industry buzz and efficient trending of the most exciting world news makes this social media site one of the most important to surface in the past couple years.
Twitter is significant because it allows anyone to see what the twitter the world-over is all about. The site’s new front page is a reflection of that significance, a step in the direction towards becoming “the pulse of the planet.”
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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 Twitter.com, 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 Twitter.com, 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 Virginamerica.com 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.