Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What's He Doing Now?

'Why Twitter Matters', is a headline in this week's issue of Business Week. I came upon Twitter last October in an article in Technology Review (issue Nov/Dec 2007). It was about the founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, who is also known as the seller of Blogger to Google.

Williams' venture, only 14 months old, has gained considerable notice because of the momentum it has gained and continuous growth in its user base. The gross estimate is between half a million to a million (not including the tweets that stream in from phones.) This is still a Spartan count compared to the titan Facebook at 70 million users. Twitter won the Web award in March 2007 at the South by Southwest International Festival (Austin, TX.)
hat Twitter is, as described by the founder is, a question answering the question "What Are You Doing?" Williams explains the appeal as it fills the need for people to stay connected. As a free web service, Twitter allows sending messages maxed out to 140-characters via the website, instant message or your phone, to anyone who has chosen to "follow" you (twitterstream.) The followers will receive those messages via the medium(s) of their choice.

The newest "web service du jour", typically of any evolving community has developed its own language. Messages (aka twitters, twits, and tweets) have been explored by businesses as a marketing tool that allows production companies (e.g. HP) to harvest the opinions relayed between users about their products. Media groups are looking to "Twitterers" as the first to be present in any news worthy events such as the recent earthquake in China.

Other prominent users (source: Wikipedia) include:

* Los Angeles Fire Department in communicating the situation of the October 2007 California wildfires.
* University of Texas (San Antonio College of Engineering) uses it to convey important information to students
* CNN has used it to break news
* US presidential campaigns (Ron Paul, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton) have used it as publicity mechanisms

Now that Twitter has gained some critical mass in its user base it has also needed an injection of funds to upgrade its technology to prevent the down times it has been experiencing. There were recent re-organizations internally. Williams, the founder of Obvious (the Web-product development company that incubated Twitter) is no longer at the helm of Twitter. He has passed the mantle to the other remaining co-founders of Twitter.

Evan Williams, from Clarks, Nebraska, is an interesting personality. At 16, he was keen on reading business books, the first of which was on real estate. He wasn't interested in buying property in Clarks, but he glued on to the of building a business and making money. He recalls, "I realized I could go buy books and learn something that people had spent years learning about. I was very intrigued with the idea that there's all this stuff out there to know that you could use to your advantage. It was written down in these books, and no one around was using it."

He sees Obvious as a different venture from Twitter. He sees it as think tank and incubator for products that solve obvious problems. It is amazing that Twitter is now just an after thought onto perhaps a runway success. What is Evan Williams going to do next?

-Analyn Revilla

1 comment:

rubenh ( said...

the revolution will not be televised