Twitter CEO On Google+: It’s Complicated

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo held a press briefing at Twitter HQ this morning in order to talk about the Twitter’s path moving forward. Costolo indicated how important it was that Twitter focus if it wants to compete in today’s saturated social ecosystem, “We used to say if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there,” he said, implying that was a bad thing.

When asked what he thought about Google+ after the talk, Costolo, who was briefly a Googler after the acquisition of Feedburner, said, “There’s no doubt that they’re going to draw in a large amount of users. You can’t not see that red notification alert on the sandbar,” he said, referring to the fact that you could basically advertise any product on the Google homepage and it would draw in a significant amount of people.

He said that Twitter takes a different route than current social contenders, preferring to pare down its services, “We’re thinking about how we can simplify the product even further. That’s what makes it different. [We’re looking] for what can we ‘edit’ out.” He said. “These other products are adding services and we are trying to simplify ours down.”

Costolo insisted that this simplification is needed if Twitter wants to achieve the ambitious goal of being available on over 2 billion devices, without the added benefit of being able to bundle with already existing popular products like YouTube and Android.

When asked about how an advertiser should view Twitter’s liberal pseudonym policy versus that of Google+ and Facebook, both of which require users to sign up with their real names, Costolo said that the primary difference between how the companies make money is that is that brands like Virgin America pay Twitter when someone, whether it be @bozo123 (his example) or @johnsmith clicks on a link. “We’re not wedded to pseudonyms. Other services are declaring that you have to use your real name, because it will help them monetize. We want to serve our users first.”

Costolo’s comments about Twitter’s simplicity are reminiscent of John Battelle’s observation about the service, “Twitter is a pencil. Facebook, on the other hand, is Photoshop. There’s so much you can do with it, the pencil function gets lost.”

So what exactly is so distracting about Google+, or for that matter Facebook? “You go to Facebook and there’s a 100 billion things to keep track of, ‘I’ve got to do a status update, I’ve got to look at a photo.’ Google is the same thing, ‘Oh I’m playing games and now I’m playing with Sergey and I’m hanging out,'” said event attendee and Search Engine Land blogger Danny Sullivan.

Sullivan went on,”If Twitter doesn’t want to be duking it out with Google+ and Facebook, not adding all those features perhaps keeps them out of that fray, or keeps them out of the comparison between Facebook and Google. That being said, Twitter did just add in Photos.”

Heh. Interestingly enough after the talk, Costolo complimented Sullivan on his beautiful photos of sunsets he posted on, where else, Google+. Be the pencil, Dick. Be the pencil.