VB: What is your long term vision for Twitter?
Williams: We do think Twitter is potentially a mainstream application. The way I look at it, coming from the blogging world, is that it touches a lot of the same motivations that drive people to blog, especially the more social motivations and the universal desire to put thoughts out there. Now there’s such a low barrier, combined with the ubiquity of mobile, we really think that we can reach very far and wide.
VB: You’re one of the first companies to be built into the Facebook platform. What’s your take on it?
Williams: Like pretty much everyone these days, we’re really impressed with what Facebook has done. They are being more open than anyone in their position.
VB: How do you think it’s going to affect the web?
Williams: If I were starting something from scratch, I would certainly consider starting out on Facebook, which is a really big deal. I think that they’ll drive others to be more open and I think every major player like them is going to have a similar platform. I think that’s good for innovation, good for entrepreneurs and hopefully good for users.
VB: Twitter had some downtime a few days ago. What happened?
Williams: It’s just growing pains. We had one day that was particularly bad. We started introducing some new functionality and it broke, and it was really hard to recover from. It was a really bad day for Twitter, but we’ll recover.
VB: You started supporting microformats. Why?
Williams: It just goes along the lines for us of creating as open a system as possible. Microformats are a cool idea that allows people to hook into Twitter in more ways. It’s both an ideal that we believe in and an idea that has helped Twitter a lot. Every time we’ve become more open we’ve seen people create things and use Twitter in new and interesting ways that we can’t necessarily predict. It’s just a no brainer.
VB: Are you raising a round of capital now?
Williams: We are raising our first outside round.
VB: Can you disclose the amount?
VB: You just starting that round now?
Williams: We are about half-way through the process. We’ve been trying to decide who we want to work with, and we’ll probably be done in the next few weeks.
VB: Why are you raising the money?
Williams: There’s so many pieces of the application that we haven’t really built out yet: simple things like search and being able to find other people in the system are pretty much non-existent at this point.
VB: Are you thinking about monetization right now?
Williams: We’re certainly thinking about it. There’s already people using Twitter for commercial purposes. We welcome that, and if it works for them and if it works for us, it’s going to be pretty easy to figure out. We’re not spending much of time on that and think it makes more sense to just build the network and make it as good as possible for users.
VB: What are the cool ways Twitter is being used? Has anything in particular stood out for you, make you go, “wow!”?
Williams: One of the things that has made me go “wow” a few times was when there were earthquakes in the Bay Area. The first time we saw people sharing live earthquake experiences was pretty interesting. Biz tells a story about how he was on BART waiting to head under the bay when an announcement was made about an earthquake. He wondered if he should get off the train but his phone started buzzing with updates from friends who had felt the quake and were gathering information about it’s magnitude and location. When the twitters indicated that it was a mild quake, Biz was comforted and stayed on the train. I think I was at home and got six Twitters within 30 seconds. It made an intense experience much more, dare I say…fun?
On another note: Timer (http://twitter.com/timer) is an app I wouldn’t have predicted. You can send it direct messages to remind you of something in however many minutes you want (eg., ‘d timer 15 call home’).