Next-gen Twitter: suggestions for UberMedia

Ronny Kerr · April 15, 2011 · Short URL:

Build harder, better, faster, stronger, because the microblogging game ain't over yet

Reports surfaced earlier this week that UberMedia, maker of several popular Twitter clients, is working on a new service to rival the current king of microblogging. Even if the news turns out to be untrue or exaggerated, there are innumerable ways a future microblogging service could improve upon Twitter.

Here are just a few:

More characters

Controversy, right from the get-go. There's an ongoing debate between tech fiends as to whether there's real value in maintaining the 140-character limit on tweets. Born out of the text messaging character limit (minus 20 for user names), the "feature" has been defended by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Evan Williams with the argument that restraint actually encourages creativity. True enough, but shouldn't we just let users restrain themselves, if they so choose? Generally, I'm in favor of giving users choice, and we should be able to say more in a single tweet, plain and simple. (Maybe call them "birdsongs" if they're more than 140 characters...)


A third party has already developed this already, but I just feel like it would be better in-house: a way to see who unfollowed you on Twitter recently.

Better trending topics

The last major release of Twitter for iPhone, complete with a poorly designed Quick Bar for displaying trending topics, brought this grievance right back to the surface: trending topics kind of suck. Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and former lead developer of Tumblr, puts it best: "It’s a news ticker limited to one-word items, lacking any context, broadcasting mostly topics that I don’t understand, recognize, or care about. It’s nonsensical. At worst, it can offend. At best, it will confuse." Offensive, check. Confusing, check. There has to be a better way to make trending topics relevant without removing the appeal of something happening en masse in real-time.

Kill the bots

You heard me. Or, at least, let users have an option of automatically denying them as followers or seeing them anywhere on the site.

Banish the private tweeter

This one was actually a suggestion made by a friend of mine, who hated the fact that she had to await my approval to see tweets from my private account, whereas I could instantly see every one of her tweets all I wanted. That said, completely getting rid of private accounts seems a little over the top. Maybe there should be a system in place such that, if you follow someone from a private account, they can automatically see your tweets too.


How often do you like a tweet? It might not be so utterly hilarious enough to favorite and it might not be something you're about to retweet to all your followers, but you just... like it. All the time, right? That's why I think Twitter should bake in a little "Like" or "Thumbs up" button, for all those good tweets that get lost to the stream.

Zeitgeist, RSS feeds, download the stream--the list goes on and on.

If you can think of others, either post them in the comments or tweet them with hashtag #TheRealNewTwitter. Let's see what we can come up with!

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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.