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Developer of UberSocial (formerly UberTwitter) and TweetDeck just might build a better Twitter
UberMedia, developer of several Twitter-based applications and services for both Web and mobile, may be working on a brand new microblogging site to rival the 800-pound gorilla in the space, according to sources close to CNN.
Founded by serially successful entrepreneur Bill Gross, UberMedia has a rich and involved history with Twitter, especially in the last couple months, when Twitter started seriously cracking down on third parties that used the name “Twitter” or built applications too similar to official Twitter clients.
Back in February, Twitter briefly suspended UberMedia until the company made a few small changes to its applications, which included renaming UberTwitter to UberSocial. Even so, Gross has built a business based on developing Twitter clients--UberSocial (iPhone and BlackBerry), Twidroyd (Android), Echofon (iPad, iPhone and desktop), UberCurrent (iPhone) and TweetDeck (acquired by UberMedia days before its suspension).
Even more fascinating is the fact that UberMedia announced having raised a $17.5 million round from Accel Partners in the same seven-day period in which it acquired TweetDeck and was suspended by Twitter. It was a wild time for business at UberMedia, but the timing of the funding round meant that the company could actually sit and consider reevaluating its future as merely another funnel for Twitter content.
Supposing CNN’s sources are to be believed, it wouldn’t be farfetched to think that talk of developing a Twitter rival emerged from that fateful week in February. And it would be the start of an epic pivot for UberMedia.
UberMedia’s Twitter rival won’t just be a carbon copy, instead opting to address user complaints like the 140-character limitation and the relatively high learning curve for new registrants.
If this were any other company, the news wouldn’t be so exciting; after all, the phrase “Twitter killer” sounds about as believable and meaningful as “iPhone killer.” And though growth has slumped slightly a couple times over its short history, the five-year-old Twitter is robust: it has around 200 million users, sees one billion tweets sent per week, and employs 400 workers from its San Francisco headquarters.
That said, UberMedia has the leading power of Bill Gross, whose companies in the past can boast of being acquired by Yahoo (Overture) and Google (Picasa). And, lest we forget, no matter how many websites and restaurants plaster those little light blue Twitter icons and “follow me!” stickers everywhere they can, no service, especially of the social variety, is safe from competition. With a word, I present to you not the only example, but the best: Myspace.
Your move, Twitter.
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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.