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The search giant’s latest foray into social is great news, for those of us who grew up with email.
On Tuesday, Google launched its would-be Facebook killer, Buzz, which uses your Gmail inbox to automatically establish a social network, and provides ways to share updates, pictures, etc, in a public or semi-public way.
Buzz has generated more buzz than anything since the iPad, but that’s only because the tech media world is already old in web years. All of us over 23 grew up using email as our primary virtual communication tool, and once your roots are down on the web, it’s pretty hard to move.
Those of us who have passed the quarter-century mark are thrilled with the idea of Buzz—no service knows our social graph better than Gmail, and if Google can use that implicit data to bust out Facebook-like sharing without any work on our part… dude, that’s so MacGyver.
But ever since 2006, teens have been abandoning email. Despite the astronomical growth of all things Web, comScore found that teen email use actually dropped 8% that year, and it’s remained anemic. Less than one-fifth of people aged 13-17 use e-mail as their primary communication method with friends, compared with nearly 40% of adults aged 25-54. Instant Messaging and social networks are the preferred means of virtual communication among teens. Email is only for talking to old people.
That means that Buzz does not solve Google’s “social problem.” Facebook and MySpace grew email-like functionality long before Gmail grew a social network. Buzz doesn’t provide any incentive for kids to start using Gmail. Their social graph resides elsewhere. At best, Buzz will give us 20- and 30-somethings a cool way to see what our old buds are up to, and it will stay relevant for a decade, but supplant Facebook it won’t.
Google’s roll in the social web is the same as in the web generally: filter and curate. Show users what’s most relevant to them based on a smart algorithm. Google is not and will never be the primary sharing tool—That’s Facebook, MySpace, Twitter. Both Buzz and Google’s Social Search Results show users the most relevant news from their social graph--and that's useful. Buzz, for instance, will import items from services like Twitter, but only show users the most important ones, weeding out lame tweets like “:p”. That kind of filtering is powerful. But if teens can't post from Buzz to Facebook, which they can't, why in the world would they go to the trouble of switching back to email? No, Generation Y, Buzz is just for us.
Of course, even the social curation services are hampered by Google’s inability to mine Facebook, but that may change as Facebook pushes users to make more of their data public. Public is Google’s domain.
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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.