TwtRoulette: Peak into stranger streams

Ronny Kerr · September 27, 2010 · Short URL:

Implementing an old Twitter feature, Pishevar and Ou's TwtRoulette lets you see other user streams


Did you ever wish you could read a mile of tweets in someone else’s shoes?

TwtRoulette, a new collaboration between angel investor Shervin Pishevar and 15-year-old Web developer Stephen Ou, let’s you do just that.

Any Twitter user can add themselves to the directory, instantly giving any TwtRoulette user a glimpse into the other user’s stream.

Go ahead and test it out: peek into my personal Twitter stream.

Interestingly, as far as Twitter API implementations go, the ordering on this one’s all mixed up. The traditional two-step process goes something like this: first, a third-party developer creates an awesome feature or application (like, say, an iPhone app for Twitter) and then Twitter eventually makes the feature or application an official part of Twitter (see: Twitter for iPhone). In this case, however, TwtRoulette’s seemingly gimmicky offering actually used to be an official feature on the site accessible via a With Friends tab.

Twitter removed the tab two years ago because it was “rarely accessed,” but you can be sure to see the option make a comeback if TwtRoulette sees any significant usage.

Though Twitter may not have mentioned this, TwtRoulette does bring up some privacy issues. If, for example, someone I follow has their profile set to private, will absolute strangers get to see their tweets through my TwtRoulette stream? That shouldn’t be the case, but it’s what the service promises to deliver.

In spite of all that, TwtRoulette, more a fun tool than anything else, probably won’t see much lasting popularity, but it might bring some attention to a more valuable project of Ou's, iTunes Instant. Built out of frustration with the slow, clunky nature of the official iTunes Store, iTunes Instant provides music shoppers with a much faster alternative, albeit less sleek.

I’m looking forward to future creations led by this young developer.

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes

Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs



Joined Vator on

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.

Related News