Dick Costolo to meet with Chinese officials in Shanghai

Steven Loeb · March 17, 2014 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/35b4

Twitter has been banned in China since 2009, could this be the beginning of a new relationship?

Twitter, like many American Internet companies, has a pretty complicated relationship with China. While it seems to want to do business there, the service not been officially allowed in since 2009. Could we possibly be seeing a breakthrough at some point in the near future, though?

Perhaps, though, at the very least, it could the first step in the defrosting of relations. 

CEO Dick Costolo is currently touring Shanghai, making his first ever trip to the country, and while he is there he is going to be taking meetings with some very important people, according to a report from Reuters on Monday.

Among his stops will be with Shanghai government officials, including representatives of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone.  The Zone was established last year in order to test out certain measures, including loosening rules governing currency conversion and foreign direct investment.

Costolo will also be meeting with  university administrators and he will be participating in a round-table discussion with students at Fudan University in Shanghai, which is also the official sponsor of his visa.

As for any potential deal with China, which would allow Twitter to operate in the country, that seems to be off the table at the moment.

Costolo is not expected to ask Chinese authorities to lift the Twitter ban, and, in a statement to Reuters, Twitter downplayed the significance of Costolo meeting with Chinese officials.

"Dick is visiting China because he wants to learn more about Chinese culture and the country's thriving technology sector," a Twitter spokesman said.

Twitter has also rejected the possibility of opening an office anytime soon in China at the moment, because it would subject the company to Chinese law, but that is not to say that a deal could not be reached at some point down the road.

Since it would just take a lot of negotation to broker such a deal, i is easier to see this as the first step in a much longer road.

Benefits and drawbacks

It's easy to see why companies like Twitter, Facebook Google, and LinkedIn. which was recently able to launch its service in the country, all seem to have their eyes set on China: namely, its 618 million Internet users, 500 million of which are on mobile. 

Making peace with China does have its drawbacks, though. After LinkedIn made its China announcement, the company also came under fire after it admitted that it was only able to operate there because it complied with Chinese censorship laws.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner defended the decision in a blog post written shortly after.

"As a condition for operating in the country, the government of China imposes censorship requirements on Internet platforms. LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship," Weiner said. 

"At the same time, we also believe that LinkedIn’s absence in China would deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others on our global platform, thereby limiting the ability of individual Chinese citizens to pursue and realize the economic opportunities, dreams and rights most important to them."

Half a billion untapped mobile users is awfully inticing, but companies will have to decide for themselves if they are willing to put up with censorship, and a potential backlash back home, to get them.

Twitter was not available for any additional comment.

(Image source: sigalonit.soup.io)

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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.


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