Twitter media galore: enhanced photos, search

Ronny Kerr · June 1, 2011 · Short URL:

Add photos right from natively, search and find media, search from Firefox address bar

Twitter announced Wednesday that it is rolling out a native photo-sharing experience, confirming reports from earlier in the week.

Sometime “over the next several weeks,” users will be able to upload a photo and attach it to a tweet directly from Naturally, the feature will be rolled out to Twitter’s mobile and desktop clients as well. The company says it’s working with international carriers to let users without smartphones upload photos over MMS.


In truth, the really interesting part of Twitter’s announcement has less to do with uploading photos and more to do with how the site is letting users interact with that constantly flowing sea of media. Starting today, any search that returns tweets with attached images will display “top images” in the sidebar. (Screenshots above and below.) Clicking “view all” pulls up a nice and elegant photo viewer.

The feature works for videos as well.

Users will likely enjoy the benefits of this improved search feature immediately, as it mends one of Twitter’s most glaring problems. The site is home to massive amounts of content, mostly in the form of 140 character tweets, but also in terms of rich media like photos and videos. Now, we’ll actually have an easier way to access more of that media, even if we don’t see it right in our timeline.

Once again, however, the new features mark Twitter’s movement into territory previously occupied by third-party developers. Even on Twitter for iPhone or iPad, the company’s official iOS apps, users could already add photos to tweets. But until now, users were using third-party apps like Twitpic and yfrog, among a bunch of less popular options.

Onstage at D9, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said the goal of the new feature is to “remove friction” from the site’s multimedia experience. Additionally, users can rest assured that they “will own their own rights to their photos,” which are to be hosted on Photobucket.

As for third-party photo services that feel slighted or overshadowed by Twitter’s new feature, Costolo flatly suggests that they “move up the value chain.”

Finally, Twitter today also released a Mozilla Firefox add-on that makes searching Twitter a breeze. You can type “@kerrronny” into the address bar to go straight to that account, or “#vatorsplash” to search for that topic.

Oh, and if you’re not sick of Twitter yet, here are some juicy statistics revealed by Costolo, who says that no third party measures Twitter accurately:

  • 13 billion API requests a day
  • Mobile usage up 150 percent since beginning of year
  • Site reached first billion tweets in three years, but now it’s doing a billion every six days
  • 600,000 developers have downloaded 900,000 API keys
  • SMS still matters: In Haiti, 95 percent of Twitter usage is via SMS
  • Over 80 percent of advertisers renew their campaigns
  • Volvo’s ad had 50 percent engagement rate
  • Ended up with 150 advertisers at the end of 2010, now up to 600
  • “Only” 500 people work at 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, 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.