Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Twitter urges Murdoch to be open

By Jonathan Fildes
Technology reporter, BBC News


Biz Stone: "People are very curious about exactly how we make our money"

Newspapers should become "radically open" if they want to make money in the online world, the co-founder of social networking site Twitter has said.

Biz Stone said that he would "love to see what happens" if newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch went ahead with plans to block Google from his websites.

"The future is in openness not [being] closed," he told the BBC.

Mr Murdoch recently said that search engines could not legally use material such as headlines in search results.

Earlier this year, he said his News Corp business would start charging customers for access to its websites.

News Corp owns the Times and Sun newspapers in the UK and the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the US.

Mr Stone said he should be allowed to "fail fast" with the proposal.

"They should be looking at this as an opportunity to try something radically different and find out a way to make a ton of money from being radically open rather than some money from being ridiculously closed," he told an event organised by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) in London.

Aiming high

Twitter itself is a so-called "open platform". From its inception, Twitter allowed other software developers to build their own apps and services for the site.

These include search tools and services that allow people to add video and pictures to messages, known as tweets.

This openness has allowed Twitter to grow at a phenomenal rate.

Between February 2008 and February 2009 the number of users grew by 1,382% - from 475,000 to seven million - according to Nielsen Online.

Twitter will always be free to everyone but you will be able to pay for an additional layer of access to learn more about your Twitter account
Biz Stone

Recent figures suggest this period of growth has flattened off, particularly in North America.

Mr Stone would not give exact figures but said that the firm was "continuing to grow very fast from an international and a mobile perspective".

Measurements of Twitter traffic are notoriously difficult as many users do not interact with the service through the website. Instead, they use desktop software and mobile phones.

Mobile growth

A report in June suggested that more than 50% of all updates were published using these tools.

"We're unique from an internet perspective in that our DNA is in mobile," Mr Stone told BBC News.

"We started out in texting and then we brought the service to the web."

Mr Stone said that the company saw most of its growth on mobiles.

"We see over four billion mobile phones active around the world as opposed to the 1.65 billion active web accounts, so when you look at this together you see a very broad potential for growth for Twitter," he said.

A memo leaked from the company earlier this year suggested that the firm wanted to reach a billion users by 2013.

Despite this growth, critics of the firm have questioned its ability to make money.

Earlier this year it secured $100m (£62m), which would value the firm at $1bn. However, it is still to make a profit.

'Better experience'

To address this, Mr Stone said that Twitter would begin to offer commercial services this year.

"One of the first things we are going to do explicitly is commercial accounts," he said.

"Twitter will always be free to everyone but you will be able to pay for an additional layer of access to learn more about your Twitter account - get some feedback, some analytics, become a better 'Twitterer'."

The firm said that it was also considering "licensing and syndication possibilities".

"We can give away this real-time feed of data to other companies such as Google and Bing to give them a better experience for searching Twitter," he said.

However, Mr Stone admitted that Twitter was still finding its way.

"We are coming out of a very rapid growth over the last two years," he said. "We have a lot of work to do."

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