Twitter tightens security with HTTPS feature

Ronny Kerr · March 16, 2011 · Short URL:

Following Facebook's HTTPS offering in January, Twitter gives users the option to surf protected

Twitter announced Tuesday that users now have the option of always using HTTPS when accessing the microblogging website.
Apparently, has been a functioning address for some time now, but it’s really doubtful that many users were aware. Now, Twitter users who would like to always access the site under the more secure layer can simply switch on HTTPS permanently by checking a single box under their account settings:

HTTPS has already been the default for Twitter when users first log in to the site (to protect passwords) and on the official Twitter clients for iPhone and iPad. Meanwhile, does not yet have the “Always use HTTPS” feature available yet.
Facebook just announced the same security feature at the end of January. Like Facebook then, Twitter in its announcement emphasizes that enabling HTTPS is vital for users who commonly access the site over unsecured WiFi connections, like public networks at coffee shops or tech conferences.

Actually, Hollywood tweeter and angel investor Ashton Kutcher just two weeks ago got a taste of what can happen while accessing Twitter without HTTPS on an open wireless network. While at the forward-thinking TED conference, a hacker gained control of Kutcher’s account and tweeted out the following message:

SSL, short for Secure Sockets Layer, is a security protocol that encrypts communication on the Web. HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is HTTP in combination with SSL, providing a more secure layer for Web usage. Online financial services like banks and payments sites have regularly employed HTTPS for some time to prevent leakage of credit card numbers or other personal information, but now it seems that the encryption protocol has found a new home on social networks.

All for the better.

Now it’s just a question of when sites like Facebook and Twitter will simply make HTTPS the default for navigation across all their properties, Web or mobile.

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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.