Q&A: Twitter Execs Answer The Tough Questions At Chirp

To close out Chirp today, five key Twitter employee/execs have taken the stage to answer audience questions. This will likely be one of the most interesting portions of the entire event, as many developers have been feeling angst over Twitter’s recent moves with Official BlackBerry/iPhone applications. And there are also plenty of questions about all of the news that’s come out today.

The participants:
Biz Stone
Dick Costolo
Jason Goldman
Ryan Sarver
Evan Williams
Moderator: Chris Sacca

Q: What about an Android app?
Ev: Yes. Major mobile platform. Can’t say if they are building it themselves or acquiring it.

Promoted Tweets (long question).
Dick: The fact that promoted tweets have a highlighted background and always say it’s promoted is how it will be identified. If app displays it differently, there will be clear guidelines for third party apps on how the tweets must be displayed.

Q: What is needed to access the firehose? Money?
Ryan: It’s currently a manual process, we’re hiring more people. Just email me.. Depending on the company monetizes there’s a license fee. If it monetizes through unique viewership, it scales with that.

Q: Will geo be included in the firehose?
Ryan: Yes. It’s already there we have a geohose. You can get explicitly geocoded tweets.

Q: Is Twitter going to host rich media (images/video/etc)?
Ev: The honest answer is we haven’t made a decision. We love that we don’t have to host media. But we also think there are user experience issues with it. Photos are a fundamental way people share information. They fit in twitter very well. Lots of people have provided that functionality. We think it’s great, we’re looking at how to make it easier.
Ryan: We’ve been working on a spec that would allow any media provider to send through an API.
Ev: We’re going to make it easier to both share and view pics in our interface. We can’t guarantee that we won’t host media if it’s needed. Not in immediate plans this quarter.

Q:Facebook..Is Facebook copying you, are you copying them. Is Zuckerberg losing sleep?
Jason: There was a debate about this with regard to Quora . Do we lose sleep over Facebook? Three of us worked on Blogger before we worked on Twitter. We talked about Blogger competition. We competed vs. Moveable Type. Now look, there’s Blogger, WordPress. There’s a lot of space for people who do similar things. The evolution of social media isn’t that big companies go after each other.. it’s new things that people like better.
Ev: I think the question is bigger than Twitter/FB. There aren’t lines any more. FriendFeed came along, worked with Twitter. Is that partner, competitor. This is common.

Q: What do you say to a developer weighing how they allocate time vs Twitter/FB?
Ev: I’d say create what you want to exist in the world on the platform you like working with better. I don’t think you can just says they have more users so the opportunity is better. I think it’s about what you want to make.
Ryan: I think there are differences, they can coexist.

Q: What if the recent events do put a chill on investing in the ecosystem?
Dick: The more we can articulate this is where we think there is a lot of room for innovation (which we will do) helps the cause.

Ev: I’m curious.. let’s do a poll. Who is more excited to develop on the Twitter platform? *maybe 50%..*
Who isn’t?
*Almost nobody raises their hand, but it’s likely they don’t want to admit it*

Q: What is a Twitter app going forward?
Ryan: How do you describe a Twitter app now? I think when we look at categories that have been successful… I think TweetDeck has done a great job taking care of advanced power users. We’re seeing the same thing with Cotweet, they built tools that meet the market’s needs. Analytics, no matter if we do them, I don’t think there’s any one answer. Discovery.
Biz: I’m excited about the stuff Ryan was talking about today. Historically we’ve launched API that match features. But when you introduce things like annotations, you introduce ability to creatively pivot, departures.

Q: Today there’s this theme of empowerment. Is the playing field going to be level? Are developers going to have fair access to the same stuff? Are you going to be doing stuff on the side?
Jason: Don’t devs already have sort of an advantage, since they get most Twitter traffic?
Ryan: User streams are something that will be in dev hands before it is on our website. We’re enabling desktop devs to do totally different things.

*missed part of this question*Jason: China.. we don’t plan to grow there now. We do have plans to offer translation tools.
Biz: We have to translate the service into as many languages in possible without putting any servers into these countries.
Ev: To be clear we stand for open exchange of information. Censorship sucks. We’d love to enable open exchange of info in China.

Ev: We’re going to launch a link shortener, we’ve started using it in DMs. We needed it as spam/phishing defense mechanism. On topic of friction free, it’s stupid that a user can’t put a URL in our tweet box and we make them go away and come back and tweet something. We want to solve that problem. Everyone else has solved that problem. We are probably not going to give people a choice. If they want to use a different shortener, they can use a different app.

Q: As Twitter search relevance improves, how would a promoted tweet work compared to most relevant one below it (Google faces similar issues)
Dick: There’s one promoted tweet at the top of the page. There will probably be some tension. Short answer: I don’t think anyone is married to Promoted Tweet being at the tippy top.

Ev: We have less than 200 people, we’re going to be a lot bigger. We are at a sweet spot where smallish number of people making a big impact.

Q: There are a lot of devs, thinking maybe they’ll be acquired. What’s the path to acquisition?
Jason: Summize was an example where we basically merged, because Twitter Inc wasn’t much bigger. That was at a very different stage.
Ryan: Look at Loren, there was no inside story there, he built a great product.
Jason: Both of those companies were based outside of the Bay Area.

Q: Could somebody give some clarity into the dictionary box. How can smaller apps compete with these?
Jason: One way to understand is it’s sort of like the old SUL. There’s a period where there’s a lot of cool things going on, but no good way to show it. So we can either do nothing, or have editorial version, which isn’t perfect and has biases. I think the best way to understand promotion box. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a more scientific way to do that. Now with Promoted Tweets, we have a more scientific way. Now people can use Promoted Tweet tweets.

Ev: 75% of traffic comes from API. Majority of users have only used website. Which means we can do better. The goal is to have people find the best apps for them. The #1 way people find out about apps is from the via link.
Jason: We can do much much better for you.

Q: Is there a way the hack day tomorrow will continue past tomorrow?
Ryan: We want to do a better job rewarding people who are giving back to the community. We’d like to do smaller version of Chirp in other places.

Q: How are you going to give more clarity about roadmap in the immediate future? Are you going to give guidance?
Ryan: We started in Feb. to do more town hall meetings. We can’t always getting into little details because sometimes it changes on a week by week basis. We want to give certainty on big things that matter every quarter.
Ev: And I guess you’re asking not just API..
Jason: One big thing .. the dev previews. We think about the feature as holistic stack of this is how it will work. We pre-announce the feature. For most major feature we pre-announce on the dev list. We rely on the API to build out features on our own.

Q: What would you like to see built?
Jason: Relevance, friction-free are things we’re focused on, we think developers serving the same goals would be good (My note: sounds like that would lead to potential for overlapping features, filling holes… )

Q: With user streams it sounds like a couple different dev streams had access before others. Who gets access?
Ryan: There are certain things we can’t offer to the entire community because there are people trying to do bad things. It’s about trust. Trying to set a hard line on who is in teh group is difficult.

Q: What did you learn over the last couple weeks? There are people who think you stepped on the ecosystem.
Ryan: We need to improve communication. We’ve done a bad job communicating externally. We are empathetic, but we haven’t projected that.
Ev: I think that’s exactly right. We do stuff in our own company that surprises people despite trying to tell everyone internally. People who don’t have visibility, natural reaction is to think it’s nefarious/bad.
Jason: I think this is best week in history of the company because we’ve had a chance to talk about this with all of you.