Twitter's Big Week

In addition to hosting the first board meeting since we invested, Twitter did two really big things this past week that I think are going to make the service a lot more useful to me (and hopefully you).

They are both in the area of finding other people you know on Twitter. To date, Twitter has made it nearly impossible to find friends on Twitter. That’s a very big shortcoming of an inherently social service. It sort of makes me wonder how Twitter got any users at all.

Here’s the new "find and invite" tab in Twitter.


The first new service they launched last week was people search. You can now type a name, last or first or both, a location, a URL, pretty much anything someone would put in a twitter profile, in search of people you want to follow. I’ve added about 15-20 people this way in the past couple of days.

The second service was launched quietly on friday, so quietly that they don’t even have a post about it on the Twitter blog. It’s the gmail address book integration. Here’s what that looks like.


I just tried it out and it worked great for me. I don’t really use gmail, but from time to time I’ll forward my mail to gmail and use it as a backup. So I have a small address book, certainly less than 500 names in it. Even so, I found three people in Twitter that I had no idea were users and I am now following them.

Twitter gets better and better as you follow more people. And now that the default is following on the web and not SMS, the signal to noise issues that plagued the service in the early days are much less.

If you tried Twitter early on and found it useless, I suggest you give it a second try. Upload your gmail address book (don’t worry you won’t spam your whole book), and search for a few friends. Get a following list of at least 20-30 people. Then get a desktop client like twitterific or a firefox plug in like twitbin.

My bet (literally) is that you’ll find following your friends on twitter to be habit forming. I certainly have. I know that Bijan just went for an exhausting run and Scotty is going out with friends in Vienna. And those are things I like to know.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Molly

    I just used this last night and I had no clue twitter didn’t have this from the beginning. One of those things that naturally feels like it would have been there all along. Great stuff.

  2. bijan sabet

    twitter rocks.i love the feature they added awhile back where you can add someone to your twitter social network but you have control over notification.

  3. Sal

    Cool. My only gripe is that it doesnt display what contact in gmail is linked to that Twitter profile. It just so happened that I was able to recognize the twitter names on a few but on the others i had no idea who they were and the updates were Protected.and P.S. I want disqus for my blogger blog bad! lol no workie.

  4. Carl Rahn Griffith

    to follow on from hunter – indeed, agreed. otherwise it could easily become a victim of its own success – for this very reason myspace (to me) always seemed destined to be a relative failure (sic) by sheer virtue of the levels of inane noise therein – by contrast, some people complain that facebook groups (for example) are too quiet – but, less is (often) more …what would be nice as a future feature as the twitter service expands in popularity is some kind of filtering/weighting in line with one’s temporal experience and preferences – am sure all these features will come with time, but in the meantime i am being very conservative with exactly who i invite to follow me and whom i wish to follow.

    1. fredwilson

      carl, you’ve got it right on both points.

  5. kkk

    Type your comment here.

  6. kenberger

    yep – following my contacts has proven incredibly useful and habit-forming.And that is why I do it all day long– via the Facebook minifeed. While Twitter really gave the concept massive awareness earlier this year, I haven’t seen a reason to use this functionality there. FB seems to have come and stolen that thunder. Maybe a 2nd try will bring something new to light.There is however plenty of oppty that Twitter seems poised to capitalize on, especially re mobile.

    1. fredwilson

      ken,my experience has been that there are many of my friends i can’t follow on FB. a good number of them are on girls have no use for Twitter because they can follow all of their friends on FB.Fred

  7. john ratcliffe-lee

    Maybe things are buggy b/c this just got linked on TC and the other half of the world is finally using the search/import feature, but the Gmail import doesn’t seem to work if you have a Google Apps-run address (as I do).

  8. edward

    The Internet as a Platform Will Continuously EvolveMark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, an NBA franchise, and Chairman of HDNet, the richest blogger in the world claims The Internet is Dean and Boring days ago in his blog. Why? Here is his reason: Every new technological, mechanical or intellectual breakthrough has its day, days, months and years. But they don’t rule forever. That’s the reality… Just like wheels, printing presses, cars, TV, radio, electricity, water…Its very difficult to develop applications on a platform that is ever changing…Well, Mark Cuban draws a wrong conclusion though his observations are right. Why?1. The slow adoption of high-speed broadband during past 5 years in the US is not a problem of the Internet, or the proof of the Internet innovation stalls, it is a matter of domestic policy issues2. From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, the Internet has demonstrated its continuous evolution as a great platform in endorsing lot of application-level innovations, such as Wiki, Blog, Social Networking, Podcast, just to name a few3. The continuously evolving of the Internet is good instead of bad, actually the innovation of the Internet itself is not fast enough, and that is why we call for Internet 2.0 to serve upcoming Web 3.0 betterFrontier Blog – search but not REsearch

  9. Nicole Simon (Berlin, Germany)

    Let me see – you are happy that twitter adds a new way to add new friends as well as give out your gmail password which gives access to all kind of information under your name and call that the most useful feature?I am sorry, but Twitter may be good for getting new users, but how about maintaining the ones you already have? Groups like in Pownce are a godsend for bilingual people like me and I really could do with some groups for reading as well, so I do not need to maintain two twitter instances.My friends _are_ already on twitter. If any advancement was coming, I would rather have done something about those complaints …

  10. Jon Davis

    Nice work Twitter.

  11. markslater

    How are you deciding between what is faddish, and what has enduring or lasting appeal? Twitter has me undecided.With the older tools it was all about call to action and measuring behavioral shifts. These days we have tools that act behind the scenes and in unison – almost like we no longer have to pull up to the bank of the river to do something – as these tools are beginning to run with our flow.But i am reminded of a great piece of technology that had the world abuzz several years ago called shazam. You would hear a song in a bar, and dial their shortcode. They would virtually listen to a clip of the song and text you with the artist and name. I loved it, but slowly forgot about it.With all these social apps, we are entering a tricky world of trends and fads. how does twitter reach beyond this potential graveyard?

  12. BUGabundo

    I just tried it with my Google App for Your Domain (GAFYD) and it didnt work.So, you guys still need to improve on this.

  13. Sally Ride

    I feel foolish. I am not into Facebook, MySpace or any of those “social” sites. I thought I’d try Twitter, after hearing all the celebrities rave about it. I thought, “what a good idea for ME to have my little blog where I can type things that are on my mind or bugging me, no holds barred”. I created a screen name and profile, with ZERO identifying information and I let it rip. I had 0 followers and I liked it that way. I then get an email that a woman who works at my mother’s nursing home (!) is following me on Twitter. ARGH! What I didn’t know is that the email addy you use can be imported from someone’s address book and they can find you on Twitter. Now what was relaxing–typing my thoughts and not having to give a damn what someone thinks—is now being read by an employee at my mom’s nursing home, who I sent an email to one month when my mom was “resident of the month”. I needed to provide history on my mother’s life, so that’s how this person got my email. I’m just sick and totally embarrassed about it all. WHY aren’t you warned that someone can find you through your email? I thought my email addy was protected. NEVER, EVER again will I use that friggin service. Perhaps I should have known better, but I thought that my email was used just for administrative purposes.

  14. fredwilson

    totally agree Hunter. i’ve been thinking a lot about that and so has the twitter team.