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Mobile updates help Android nearly catch up with the attention-hoarding iPhone
The two big social media pillars, Facebook and Twitter, both released Wedneseday updates to their respective Android apps, a big win for Android users and the platform itself, which traditionally trails the iPhone in receiving the latest features.
Buried amidst other big announcements, like the launch of a brand new deals program for its location-based platform, Places, Facebook said Wednesday that its Android app will finally be catching up with the fully-featured iPhone counterpart. Starting today, Android users now have access to Places, Groups, and Single Sign On.
Places, which debuted on the iPhone in August, lets users check in to establishments, like restaurants, museums or other businesses, alerting their friends to where they are in the world at that very moment. Though startups like Foursquare and Gowalla have been providing this service for much longer, Facebook has the instant advantage of 200 million members who use the site on mobile.
(Places on the iPhone now lets businesses give deals to users who check in, so Android development technically still hasn’t caught up with the iPhone just yet.)
The other big change coming to Facebook for Android is Groups, the revamped tool for organizing groups of just about any type--sports teams, a music lovers community, a book reading club, anything. In fact, it seems that Facebook has inconspicuously refused to offer many examples of what kinds of groups users will create precisely because they want users to pull the feature in whatever direction they may.
(The new Facebook for iPhone also now includes Groups.)
Finally, Facebook offered developers a new feature called Single Sign On, intended to streamline the mobile experience for users. Effective immediately, users can log in to Android apps Flixster, Groupon, Loopt, SCVNGR, Yelp and Zynga Poker with just a couple taps (bypassing registration or password input screens). It’s kind of like Facebook Connect for mobile.
The new Twitter for Android, available today on devices with Android 2.1 or higher, adds a Tweet details page, speed enhancements and UI polish.
On the Tweet details page, which has been one of the most useful pages on Twitter’s iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone clients, users can easily perform a variety of functions, like favoriting, retweeting and replying.
Users will also be happy to hear that Twitter has upgraded the app to improve tweet timeline loading and scrolling.
As for the smaller updates, Twitter for Android, again playing catch up with the iPhone, now includes two awesomely intuitive features. The first: when at the top of the stream, simply “pull down” to refresh. The second: swipe any tweet for retweet, reply, and other functions. Lastly, the app now includes high-resolution profile pictures.
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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.