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Bill Gross' company needs to pivot (and fast), but Twitter might just take away any chance of that
The battle between UberMedia and Twitter is starting look more like war.
Twitter is in advanced talks to purchase Twitter client TweetDeck for around $50 million, according to a piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. That would be considerable news in of itself, even if everybody wasn’t convinced that UberMedia had already bought the company.
Oh, but everybody was convinced that UberMedia had already bought TweetDeck. In February. For as much as $30 million, some sources said.
Well, maybe somebody should have noticed when we heard not one official peep out of either UberMedia or TweetDeck for over two months. If the WSJ’s sources are correct, Twitter and UberMedia could very well be fighting a bidding war over TweetDeck, not too shabby a position for the Betaworks-funded company.
It’s all the more interesting because reports just surfaced last week that UberMedia is working on its very own microblogging site to rival Twitter. The idea is that UberMedia’s version of tweeting would involve a less steep learning curve for new users and maybe even do away with artificial limitations like the 140 character limit per tweet. (Guess what: TweetDeck already helps users tweet longer messages.)
Allow me to compare just the desktop clients between Twitter's official offerings and TweetDeck.
While Twitter for Mac is slim and elegant, that also means it’s a bit barebones. And just as hard to get into, if not harder, than Twitter.com. And, as far as we know, Twitter has zero plans to release a Windows client.
TweetDeck is available on both OSes. The biggest obvious benefit of the client is that, besides Twitter, users can connect accounts from Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Buzz and Foursquare. It also allows you to easily watch YouTube videos or record and share your own clips through TwitVid. And with Deck.ly, you can even send tweets longer than 140 characters. The list of nifty features goes on and on.
Let's not even get into mobile.
If you think about it, TweetDeck is so awesome that you could see it rivaling Twitter. If only it had the backend and traction. Maybe that’s why it would make sense to just join forces with Twitter. On the other hand, if UberMedia is seriously considering building a Twitter rival, buying TweetDeck would be an even bigger thorn in the side of Twitter. It wouldn’t be a surefire way to win the war, of course, but it would undoubtedly give UberMedia the ammunition it needs to keep fighting.
Analogies are misleading and this is going to sound apocalyptic, but it’s fun to think about anyway: “MySpace is to Facebook as Twitter is to...?”
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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.