Twitter turns on location-aware tweeting

Ronny Kerr · March 11, 2010 · Short URL:

Sources say Facebook to do the same in a month at the f8 conference

Users logging into Twitter today are seeing little notices before sending out a tweet, asking whether the user would like to turn on location-aware tweeting.

Twitter first made geolocation features available through its API back in mid-November, but this is the first time that the company has actually implemented them directly into the main Twitter site.

Turning on location can either mean broadcasting your exact location, your neighborhood, or even just your town. Once you opt-in, Twitter automatically discovers your location.

From then on, your tweets will at the bottom carry a little map marker, which, when hovered over, turns blue and summons a mini-Google map displaying the origin of that particular tweet.

Twitter location

So far, Twitter appears to be handling well the privacy issues associated with location broadcasting. The first step is requiring users to opt-in to take advantage of the service. Furthermore, the support page for the feature offers some pretty good common sense advice:

"It's already a good idea to be cautious and careful about the amount of information you share online. There may be some updates where you want to share your location ('The parade is starting now.' or 'A truck just spilled delicious candy all over the roadway!'), and some updates where you want to keep your location private. Just like you might not want to tweet your home address, please be cautious in tweeting coordinates you don't want others to see."

A nice little response to Please Rob Me?

Either way, the timing of the launch of location sharing on Twitter couldn't have been more calculated. Just a couple days ago, an anonymous source revealed that Facebook would be introducing its own location sharing services at the f8 conference, taking place next month. Besides that, competition over location sharing and interaction on mobile phones has gotten increasingly fierce recently, with Foursquare, Gowalla, and others repeatedly releasing new updates to outdo the others.

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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.