About time: Twitter hatching photo service?

Ronny Kerr · May 31, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1aff

Twitpic and yfrog could be out of a business

[Update at 11:05 PT on May 31: AdGrok has confirmed the acquisition of AdGrok.]

Flickr? Instagram? Twitpic? yfrog? Which do you use to embed photos in your tweets?

If the latest rumors are to be believed, you might soon be using something else entirely: Twitter Photos. Sources say Twitter is announcing an official photo sharing service at the D9 conference this week; CEO Dick Costolo takes the stage on Wednesday.

The company has not yet replied to my request for comment.

It’s really about time that Twitter created its own photo service. Though the microblogging site is often considered the younger social networking sibling to Facebook, that social network is years ahead in terms of content sharing. By the end of 2010, Facebook was home to 60 billion photos and users were adding another six billion each month. That means the site is seeing more photo uploads every month than Flickr has in total, and the same is nearly true of both Photobucket and Picasa too.

Unless you’re using one of Twitter’s mobile apps with photo capabilities (the one for iPhone actually lets you choose from several apps) or a third-party application like TweetDeck, which Twitter actually just acquired last week, then there’s no easy way to upload photos to the site. It’s slightly ridiculous that, at Twitter.com, all you can do is publish 140 characters or less (with your location shared, if you like). It’s 2011, and users want rich content.

Though an official Twitter service for photos would likely make it harder for yfrog and others to continue thriving, those third-party developers have known for months the risk of running those businesses. When the company told developers right out to stop making their own clients, it was pretty clear that other product offerings would be endangered.

In related Twitter rumor mill news, there are reports that the company is close to acquiring AdGrok, a Y Combinator-backed startup working on streamlining the bidding process for Google AdWords. The idea is that Twitter could use the advertising intelligence in developing its own ad products, like Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends.

I’ll be following both reports closely and will be on the lookout for official confirmation. I’ll also update this post if the company responds to my request for comment.

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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.