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After acknowledging that not even he can really explain the success Twitter has seen, Williams explained micro-blogging to Rose, and the two talked about some of the key aspects of the service as it evolves into a mainstream utility. Here are some interesting quotes and notes:
- “It looks a lot like a social network, but it’s actually fundamentally different in how the relationship structures work.” Williams notes that Twitter is about asynchronous relationships
- Williams calls Facebook the “classic example” of a social network. Remember, Facebook nearly acquired Twitter back in November, and the two sides are still said to be talking (though not too seriously at this time).
- In noting that Twitter is “constrained,” Williams brings up not only the 140 character limit, but also notes how it doesn’t have pictures in your stream. So perhaps you shouldn’t expect that to be added anytime soon — though earlier remarks by former chief executive Jack Dorsey suggested that embedded elements could be coming.
- There are at least 2,000 different programs that can send Twitter updates, Williams notes.
- The reasoning behind the 140 character limit is because Twitter wanted to support SMS (text messages). SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, but there also needed to be room for the Twitter usernames.
- While Williams neither invented the idea behind Twitter (Dorsey did) or the idea behind Blogger (his other startup which he eventually sold to Google), he saw the opportunity in both after experiencing what they could do first hand.
- Twitter notes that blogging is “morphing” and that makes Rose laugh for some odd reason.
- Williams notes that he feels the Internet has “more efficiently tapped the most basic human desires,” and notes that the desire to connect with people socially is one of the big ones.
- Williams says that while it’s hard to know where technology will be in 5 years, he thinks that online social services like Twitter should seem normal to people by then.
- Only about half of Twitter’s users are in the US.
- “Japan is really big for us,” Williams says. Twitter has a version of its website specifically built for the Japanese (and it even features ads!).
- Williams notes that “The UK has exploded recently” (in terms of usage), and should be the 2nd biggest international country to use the service (after Japan). He says that Germany, Canada and Brazil are creeping up there as well.
- “We had a terrible first year and a half, actually,” Williams notes when Rose asked about the site downtime issues last year. “That almost killed us, I think,” he admits.
- “We talked to Facebook, yeah,” Williams says when asked about the acquisition topic. “I never felt like it was the best thing for Twitter. It just seems way too early,” Williams goes on.
- “There’s tons of risk … but the potential is so great, that to stop now, even at a big win financially, would just feel like a loss,” Williams continues on the acquisition topic.
- Williams says that he definitely thinks Twitter can be used as a form of journalism, and notes that it is already to some extent, but thinks that the “collective intelligence” can be an even more interesting use (hello, Twitter Search).
- Williams goes on to note that Twitter Search becomes really useful via “algorithmic or crowd-sourced editing,” so that interesting stuff can bubble up.
- Williams calls suggesting users for others to follow “the hardest part,” but Rose cuts him off before he can elaborate. It seems as if that will definitely be a bigger part of the service going forward.
- When Rose asks “How do you monetize this?,” Williams responds, “We don’t know for sure, but we have some ideas.” He then laughs and notes that like the product itself, that aspect will evolve over time.
- Williams notes that in a post (web 1.0) bubble, “If something is popular, it probably won’t disappear because it can’t make money. That doesn’t really happen anymore.”
- Williams mentions charging users for more/new features, the high commercial usage the service sees and the possibility of advertising as three potential ways to make money. “If we do it intelligently, it can be a win for users, and make money for companies,” Williams says.
- Williams says that social communications are really hard to monetize, but information-seeking activities are much easier to monetize, with Google being the prime example. Williams notes that Twitter is somewhere in between those.
You can find me on Twitter here along with fellow VentureBeatniks Eric Eldon, Dean Takahashi, Anthony Ha, Chris Morrison, Tam Vo, Camille Ricketts, Dan Kaplan and Matt Marshall. We have a VentureBeat account (for our posts) as well.
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