Twitter moves to widen its presence on the Web
SAN FRANCISCO — For Twitter to justify its stock’s high valuation, the micromessaging company must spread the gospel of tweeting far beyond its current active user base of 232 million accounts.
To do that, Twitter is counting on millions of websites to link to the service and encouraging legions of independent developers to find creative new uses for its platform, driving up activity and the number of advertisements Twitter users see.
Joe Budzienski, cofounder of Gozaik, is among the developers trying to innovate on top of Twitter’s core service.
His start-up has developed a system that scans Twitter’s half-billion messages a day for job listings posted by employers, indexes them, and makes them easy for job seekers to search. It also builds profiles of Twitter users, based on publicly available information, that employers can look at to find candidates.
According to Gozaik’s analysis, 15 jobs are listed on Twitter every minute — roughly 150,000 a week.
“One thing that is constant chatter on Twitter is jobs,” Budzienski said.
But matching those ads to potential employees is a challenge amid the cacophony that is the Twitter stream.
So besides the search engine on its own site, Gozaik is developing an advertising tool that will let employers send job-related messages to specific users on Twitter who match their profile of an ideal candidate.
Other start-ups, such as Tame and Nuzzel, are trying to improve on the shortcomings of Twitter’s design, which presents messages in reverse chronological order, regardless of significance.
Tame, a German company founded with financial support from the national government, has built an alternative interface. Its tool, which costs 5 euros a month, or about $6.68, analyzes a user’s feed and sorts posts into three columns — links, topics and people — based primarily on how frequently they are being mentioned.
If, for example, lots of people are discussing the latest revelations of spying by the National Security Agency, those posts would bubble to the top. Users can also choose to examine their pool of tweets over one to 24 hours, offering a quick way to catch up on the top messages over that time.
“We believe something is important if lots of people talk about it,” said Torsten Mueller, Tame’s cofounder and chief marketing officer, who is temporarily working in an incubator space in the same building as Twitter’s headquarters here. “We offer you this instant analysis.”
Twitter declined to make any executives available for this article.
The company generally supports this kind of innovation. It offers a host of free tools for outside sites and developers, including Twitter Cards, which allow publishers, e-commerce sites, and mobile applications to extend a 140-character tweet by adding photos, previews of articles and catalog items, or links to mobile apps.
The feature is widely expected to be the basis for future Twitter services, like video advertising or a way to buy a product directly from a tweet without leaving the site.
Beyond developers, Twitter wants its messages republished and embedded on as many websites as possible, and a team of employees, led by Chloe Sladden, vice president for media, works with news media, broadcast outlets, and the entertainment industry to integrate Twitter into their activities.
Posts about big news events, like passenger David Eun’s photograph of the Asiana Airlines plane that crashed in San Francisco in July, often pop up in hundreds, or even thousands, of other places. That builds buzz about Twitter and exposes potential new users to the service.
“They are one of the first technology companies to really approach media in a collaborative form,” said Ryan Osborn, vice president for digital innovations and social media at NBC News. “We’re at a fascinating time in media where companies telling stories realize all these things are coming together, so there is a symbiotic relationship.”
In its prospectus, Twitter said it did not make money directly from such deals, but that increased use of its platform allowed it to show more ads.
The company does earn a tidy sum from selling access to the entire “fire hose” of its users’ messages to several companies that resell it or package it with other services. In the first nine months of 2013, it took in $47.4 million from such licensing, or about 11 percent of its total revenue for that period.
One risk for developers building on Twitter’s technology is that the company might change the rules. Last year, for example, it changed the application programming interfaces that allow outside software to plug into the service, effectively killing many apps, including most third-party alternatives to Twitter’s interface.
Topsy is one of the companies that licenses Twitter data. In addition to offering a powerful tool for searching tweets, the company is working with hedge funds that want to analyze the Twitter stream for investment ideas, drug companies interested in reports of side effects, and public health officials seeking to track epidemics of flu and other infectious diseases.
“It’s becoming a pretty useful source of information that has a temporal component to it,” said Vipul Ved Prakash, Topsy’s cofounder and chief technology officer.
Mueller said he was well aware that Twitter might frown on Tame, which makes it much less likely that a user would see the ads that Twitter sells to generate revenue. But he is meeting with the company to try to win its support.
Mark Rolston, chief creative officer of Frog, a technology design firm in San Francisco, said Twitter has an incentive to keep its platform open to outside developers to prompt new uses for it.
Twitter today is “the domain of opinionated people and people high-fiving each other,” he said. But as more people, and even objects like weather stations and parking meters, are connected to Twitter, he said, new apps could help people find exactly the information they want and tune out the rest.