Twitter acquires Q&A site Fluther for talent

Ronny Kerr · December 21, 2010 · Short URL:

Ben Finkel, Andrew McClain and other Fluther staff to work exclusively at Twitter; working on Q&A?

Fluther$200 million in the bank? Time to spend it on talent, obviously.

Twitter announced Tuesday that it has acquired Q&A community Fluther to hire the team’s talent. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Today, we’re adding four engineers and one designer through our acquisition of the team at Fluther, Inc.,” announced Carolyn Penner at Twitter Communications. “During our conversations with Fluther's team, we were continually impressed by their technical talent, entrepreneurial spirit, and much of the thinking behind the question-and-answer product they’ve spent the last couple of years building.”

Ben Finkel, Andrew McClain, Tim Trueman, Richard Henry, and Cameron Dutro will be “joining the Flock,” which has tripled in the past year, according to Penner.

Like Aardvark, ChaCha, Quora and Yahoo Answers, Fluther lets anyone pose their questions to strangers on the Internet. Fluther is particularly well-liked because it succeeded in building a strong enough community of about one million monthly unique visitors that asked interesting questions and, more importantly, answered questions quickly and intelligently.

Here are the five questions at the top of Fluther’s home page, as a little sample of the site's offerings:       

  • How can I avoid sore joints after weight training
  • How fast is gravity?
  • Strange symptoms after head CT?
  • What is the bone known as the small plate?
  • Are those who insist they are wise wise? Are those that claim enlightenment enlightened?

Health questions, physics questions (asked in peculiar ways), philosophical questions, anything you can think of can be a question.

So how does Fluther compare to other Q&A sites? It's doing pretty well, depending on who you ask. Here are some traffic analyses I ran on Compete and Alexa, two website ranking services.



Compete says Fluther is winning, while Alexa says ChaCha and Quora are the current leaders. Either way, it doesn't look like that Google acquisition of Aardvark is working out too well.

Though Finkel and McClain say they won’t be developing Fluther further, users shouldn’t be too downtrodden about the news since the site will stay online, at least for the time being.

Now it’s just a question of whether Twitter has plans to bake a Q&A service directly into its 200 million member information network. While it would instantly become one of the most-used Q&A services on the Internet, it would have to be implemented pretty elegantly in order to not muddle the current focus of Twitter, which is delivering personalized real-time content to users.

I asked Twitter if the company had plans to add a Q&A service, and received the following response from Penner:

“No. We don't have plans to do so. As our blog post says, their product,, is not part of the acquisition.”

It’s not part of the acquisition, but the team that built it is. Will Finkel and McCclain of Fluther help build a totally new Q&A service for Twitter from the ground up? No one can answer that question with complete confidence right now.

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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.