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Google’s social revolution
Last week’s announcement of Google’s (relatively small) acquisition of Aardvark, the real-time social Q&A start-up, received a fair amount of buzz. This was on top of the abundant buzz generated by Google’s release of Google Buzz. Which, of course, follows last year’s buzz about Google Wave.
Though Wave, a social collaboration tool, is kind of uber-geeky and not particularly intuitive, Google Buzz draws on a now well-known metaphor: the news feed. And while it has generated some early heat around privacy issues, Google Buzz (in its most current form – they’ve been updating it nearly daily in response to user reactions) draws on your Gmail and chat contacts to form an instant social graph. That graph enables you to stay connected with your contacts in much the same way you would via Facebook or Twitter (or, more accurately, FriendFeed before Facebook acquired it).
Once the collaboration aspects of Wave are refined (and become better understood) and are then married with your Buzz social graph, it’s easy to see how folks might fall in love with all the ways in which you can make things happen whether for work, family events or social occasions. Add in Aardvark, which lets you ask a question and which instantly calculates what person within your social graph is most capable of expertly answering your question within about 10 minutes, and suddenly you have a social platform many times more powerful and interesting than what’s currently available elsewhere.
So what, you may ask, do Aardvark, Buzz and Wave have to do with search?
First, it’s all about social. Google sees the rise of social networks including Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter, as a challenge to its search hegemony. After all, if you can get answers to questions, or advice on what to do, or find the information you’re looking for via a trusted social network, that is one less search you do on Google. Which means one less opportunity for Google to offer up ads.
The other reason, then, is that by building its own social tools into the growing user base for Gmail, Apps and iGoogle, their algorithms will be able to see what sorts of conversations, questions or responses you offer not only through email correspondence or in a collaborative exchange on Wave, but also via Aardvark and, by extension, Facebook and Twitter. Which represents an opportunity to serve highly targeted, extremely relevant ads in ways that go well beyond the keyword search.
While many consumers chafe at the idea that ads might be targeted to them based on their (presumably private) conversations or collaborative activity, the truth is those ads are likely to be of real service at the exact right moment in time.
Obviously, should this play out as imagined, this is great for Google. But it’s also great for advertisers. And, I would argue, it’s good for consumers, too. While there are very legitimate privacy concerns with the way Buzz was initially rolled out, continuing changes are addressing those concerns.
Before you know it, Aardvark, together with a good Buzz, could find itself riding an awesome Wave. Which means search marketers have something to look forward to.
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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.