Biz Stone Answers Your Twitter Questions
Last week we solicited your questions for Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. In the interim, Twitter has announced it will begin verifying some high-profile accounts to make sure the Tweeters aren’t impersonators. What was most interesting to me about your questions was that so many of them were skeptical of Twitter’s underlying value.
Is this an indictment of Twitter itself or just a collective decision to no longer be wowed by the latest social-networking tool to come down the pike? In any case, thanks to Stone for participating and all of you for the questions.
Why 140 characters? What’s so special about 140? — Owlette
We took our cue from the limit on SMS, which is 160, but we wanted to leave room for the author of the message, so we standardized on 140. Additionally, we wanted all Twitter messages to appear in their entirety no matter the device — we wanted to be device agnostic.
Roughly when do you see Twitter becoming a profitable company? (I assume it’s not currently.) — Chuck
We will begin experimenting with revenue generation this year, although we’re not looking to hit a home run right away. Our long-term goal is to build a profitable company of enduring value, so generating revenue is going to become increasingly important as we mature.
Do you ever just look at a page of Tweets and think, “who cares?” — kdg
If I have found my way to a page of Tweets, then there was some intent in doing so. In seeking out this information I have already signaled that I care. That being said, if I decide tweets from a particular source are no longer relevant to me, I will unfollow.
What are a couple of the most interesting things you’ve learned by reading various strangers’ tweets? — Ben
Most of the time I learn of breaking news via the tweets of strangers because I click through from the trends. News of the attacks in Mumbai, the plane landing in the Hudson, and, more recently, the unfortunate death of David Carradine all came to me via the tweets of strangers.
How do you consistently get the ball rolling when starting a new social media site? How did you convince people to join Twitter when there were only a few hundred or thousand users? — Chris Y.
We never convinced people to use Twitter — we simply provided a tool they didn’t know they needed until they tried it. When Twitter began to emerge as a useful system, more and more people joined, which in turn made it more valuable.
Twitter seems dominated by businesses, politicians, and people looking to seek connections, rather than by users who use it as a means of communicating with friends. Is there a fear that Twitter will become so dominated by businesses (and/or politicians) seeking the free advertising that it will make Twitter wholly unattractive to the average consumer? — Trevor L.
Folks use Twitter to follow sources of information that they find compelling. We will make it easier to discover those sources which are relevant and meaningful. As long as people can share, discover, and communicate that which is important to them, Twitter will remain attractive.
How do you vet changes to your user interface? Are you looking to make most of the people happy at the risk of offending a few? Do you check with a core group of heavy users? Focus groups? — Dave
We watch for usage patters and listen to email, blogs, and tweets every day for feedback. Many of the features we have launched were created by users including @replies, and there are more to come. Recently, we have begun socializing new feature ideas in advance of launching to gather immediate reaction and feedback. We also test internally since everyone who works at Twitter is also an active user.
According to the Times‘s Economix blog, “Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one” and “the top 10 percent of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90 percent of tweets.” Do these numbers concern you? Is it bothersome that most users never send out more than one message via Twitter? — C. Larity
This report is not necessarily accurate or credible so I cannot comment on it specifically. I will however say that Twitter is in it’s infancy and there is much work to be done from a product perspective. We think there is much to be done to make Twitter better.