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Mobile Twitter growth in 2009 astonishing, but Facebook still rules Web 2.0
On the fourth anniversary of the launch of Opera Mini, Opera today presented its first State of the Mobile Web Report in 2010, taking a close look at the unstoppable global rise of social networking, especially Facebook and Twitter.
Despite only pinning down a small fraction of the browser market share (less than Mozilla Firefox, less than Apple Safari, less than Google Chrome), Opera maintains a strong showing in the mobile sector with Opera Mini, a popular browser on mobile devices used around the world.
Using data tracked from Opera Mini users, the browser maker found that in 2009 Facebook grew by just over 600%, dethroning the ever-popular Russia-based VKontakte as the top social network of the year.
Facebook, which topped 350 million global users in early December, is clearly the world's biggest social network and, based on Opera's data, probably the world's biggest mobile social network as well.
And Facebook knows it.
It seems like every week the company expands, changes, or refines some aspect of its site: this week the company announced its intention to construct a massive data center in Oregon to support the needs of all the network's new and future users.
As to the ever-present question of the public option, two major Facebook investors, Jim Breyer of Accel Partners and Yuri Milner of DST, claimed yesterday that the number one social network in the world has no plans for a 2010 IPO:
"We have permanent capital, we don’t have to return money to investors, so we have unlimited patience," said Milner. "We want to have the vision follow-through. It is up to the board and management to make the call."
Zuckerberg couldn't have said it better himself. In fact, when Facebook set up a dual-class stock structure in late November, identical to a move made by Google before it went public in 2004, the company quickly shot down swirling rumors of impending IPO.
The other important bit in Opera's report was Twitter's mobile growth: an almost 3000% spike in users.
Though this really isn't new information for those who have been following Twitter's growth across all avenues, it reaffirms the microblogging site's incredible potential. While the site's growth may have slacked quite a bit towards the tail-end of 2009, the site still has all of 2010 to prove that it can still grow.
Notably, every site on the top ten saw positive growth, except Friendster, which saw a 29% decline in 2009. Curiously, the site was not acquired by online payments company MOL Global until the year was nearly over. Whether the site's decline will continue with its new owners remains to be seen.
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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.