As Twitter Hits New Milestone, CEO Talks Google, Search, Apple, IPO, Privacy

dick-costolo-web20Speaking with John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo touched on a number of recent developments for the social media giant, dispelling a few rumors as he went. Twitter is now hosting 250 million tweets per day, up from 230 million just a month ago. He is hopeful about their Apple partnership, while talks with Google about a renewed deal to show Tweets in SERPs seem to have stalled. And don’t expect an IPO any time soon.

Expired Google/Twitter Deal May Not Renew

When asked whether they will renew their deal with Google, which showed tweets in search results until recently, Costolo simply replied, “I don’t know.” It seems they can’t agree on a value exchange, though Costolo hinted that the issue isn’t monetary. Perhaps the frosty environment has something to do with Google+, now a Twitter competitor.

Costolo said that although it’s still early days, they aren’t competing on the same level as Google+. Google is competing on features, making them more competitive with Facebook. Twitter, meanwhile, is going to stay their current course and will “compete on simplicity,” said Costolo. The other two big contenders in the social media space, Google and Facebook, he said, “will be different from the experiences we want to offer our users.”

Better Twitter Search? No.

Don’t expect much in the way of better search or access to old tweets any time soon. Costolo said Twitter has a “finite number of search engineers” who are working “on other challenges” right now.

Costolo: Apple Partnership is “Going to be a Big Deal”

Apple and Twitter share the common trait of “simplicity in a world of complexity,” Costolo said. Twitter hoped direct integration with Apple’s OS would help give Twitter use a boost, and early numbers show that indeed, it has. New Twitter signups through iOS5 have tripled since Apple released that update.

Twitter IPO Not a Concern at the Moment

Twitter raised $4 million in G-Series funding in July, and were set to close another $400 million in September to pay out to shareholders. They used the $200 million raised last December for a new data center and servers, greatly increasing their capacity to handle larger volumes of activity.

“We’re growing the business in a way that makes us proud. We’re growing in a way that’s sustainable and scalable,” said Costolo.

As they continue to focus on ad revenue and are valuated at about $8 billion, Costolo doesn’t see the need for an IPO at this time.

“We don’t want to have to be beholden to an IPO window. I want to go public when the company’s ready and prepared…and not at the whims of some window,” he said.

Privacy Actually Matters to Twitter

Twitter is becoming the privacy darling in the social media realm. As Google+ controversy rages over their real names policy and Facebook users raise concerns about an Open Graph society, Twitter respects user privacy not only in words, but in deed.

“We respect and defend the user’s voice,” said Costolo, recalling their run-in with the U.S. government last year, when they refused to simply comply with a controversial secret court order to hand over user account information. The four accounts in question were related to a WikiLeaks investigation, with the court order obtained under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which prevents the company from notifying the user that their account has been investigated. Twitter fought for the right to reveal the court order to the users in question.

Earlier this month, Google was forced to hand over Gmail account information for WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum. It was unclear whether Google had fought the order to release the data or simply complied, though they did lobby for the right to tell Appelbaum his email account had been compromised.

Costolo joked about the ECPA, which many feel needs revisited as it predates the arrival of the World Wide Web and allows access to online accounts without just cause a crime has been committed.

“These orders are secret orders, and the first rule is you can’t talk about the order. It’s like the first rule of ‘Fight Club’, but real,” he said.

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