Twitter Brings You Closer

For anyone who is interested in Twitter, what is going on right now in the company, where they are headed, and why, this 30min interview with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is worth watching. I particularly like the last minute of the Q&A session at the very end. So if you only have a minute this morning and you can figure out how to fast forward, I suggest you at least watch that.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Twitter is more and more core to my life.The more they become a stream I connect through and less a place, like Facebook, I simply cruise and stay on the surface, the better,@kevinmarshall did a piece on Twitter discovery worth reading…

    1. Cam MacRae

      Quite core to my life too. I’ve met some amazing people that I’d probably never have broken bread with had it not been for Twitter. Strange then, that I find I’m using it less and less.@falicon ‘s riff is quite an interesting read too.

      1. awaldstein

        Kevin is talented developer with a keen market sense. I’m betting that he will throw a rock at the speeding train of market change and hit it right on one of these days

        1. ShanaC

          It just matters which rock and which market.

          1. Cam MacRae

            Matters less than the elbow behind the throw. Probably.

        2. falicon

          ๐Ÿ™‚ …I’ll probably be standing on the tracks when I make the throw though…but at least I’ll have a split second of joy knowing I hit it right before it plows me over…

    2. fredwilson

      Thanks for the arnold. I will check it out. We need a #readlater tag in disqus that publishes to your profile page so you can read later

      1. William Mougayar

        Hello….Engagio has already captured that link and it’s sitting here for you… (3rd line item).We are going to show these links more visibly in your Dashboard in a more clearly displayed section (a few days away).

        1. Cam MacRae

          Whoa! I’ve never noticed that feature. Utterly. Brilliant.

          1. William Mougayar

            ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks.

        2. falicon

          As a developer building and running many services, I gotta say this really made me laugh out loud…I experience this situation SO many times across every single service I build/run…good to know that at least I’m not alone in that feeling ๐Ÿ™‚

        3. Dave Pinsen

          Nice, William.

    3. ShanaC

      I’m confused about discover as he is.

    4. falicon

      Hey thanks for the link love! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. awaldstein

        My pleasure. I don’t always agree with you but I learn almost always ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. falicon

          I don’t even agree with myself all the time! ;-)…and I always learn something from everyone as well (even when I don’t want to!) ๐Ÿ˜€

    5. Aaron Klein

      Twitter has become my second inbox. It’s the one that I don’t have to catch up on if I’m off the grid for the week, so it’s the inbox I love. It’s how I get my news, discover cool stuff, connect with amazing people in short bursts of time.If you think about all of the simple things that had to come together to make the product as incredibly useful as it is…that’s pretty amazing.

      1. awaldstein

        Well said Aaron. A ringtone without an answering service. Catch the news if you do, if not no matter.

        1. Aaron Klein

          I once heard it described as a river flowing by. “Dip your cup into the stream whenever you want.”

      1. awaldstein


    6. Pete Griffiths

      I think the @kevinmarshall piece is wildly overoptimistic in the way it envisages relevance filtering working.”Can you imagine how amazing it would be if Twitter actually learned to properly classify its users (and then eventually every single tweet)? Even a generic level of classification could go quite a long way in improving the โ€˜discoveryโ€™ space.”I can imagine it but real time classification of every single tweet is an insanely hard problem. Real time semantic analysis on 140 characters????But this point “On any given social network, or service in general for that matter, I am but a shell of my true and whole self.” is extremely important!!

      1. awaldstein

        There are important nuggets here. Optimistic rant it is.

        1. Pete Griffiths

          @A if you’re into this stuff take a look at this:, based in LA, is trying to do exactly thisthe talk on this page describes the architecture of their relevance engine

          1. awaldstein

            Thanks Pete.

          2. Pete Griffiths


  2. Cam MacRae

    Word to the wise (and time poor): The embedded version is 10 minutes long, but you can’t tell that until you’ve sat through the preroll. You can’t fast forward to the last minute without clicking through to… and sitting through the preroll again.Do yourself a favour and click the link at the bottom of the post.You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      Shit. Why would they offer a truncated embed?

      1. Cam MacRae

        They place more value on page impressions than goodwill? Jerks.

  3. Jan Schultink

    Only responding to the title, I did not watch the video.Instagram actually brings you closer to a stranger much stronger than any other social network, snapping pictures as they go.

    1. Alex

      In many cases that is not true. Instagram pictures often don’t carry much context and don’t tell you much about the person who took he picture. Twitter does a better job at this.

      1. Jan Schultink

        Partly true, partly not. i agree that people leave out the cat, kid, family snaps, but Instagram gives you a window of the world through which they are watching. I find it very interesting.

  4. Alex

    His take in business vs running the company is very interesting. He’s a very wise man.

  5. John Best

    I had the embedded version cut out at 10 mins, but the linked version isn’t restricted.I like @dickc, I’ve got a lot of time for what he’s doing at and for Twitter. For example – as he says here – his desire to preserve culture and streamline away bureaucracy.The other things that stood out for me were: a) the “complexity” of the relationship with Google. I inferred that G+ makes that much more tricky, as no doubt did the “search plus your world” / firehose implications. b) the questions around the business model.

  6. Patrick Dugan

    I had a sort of restless dream last Friday, before waking for a flight to Israel and several days of jet lag, where I visualized Twitter’s data in aggregate via a variety of metaphors, dog feces, crowds of people lined up over a map, piles of cash fluttering about, and I saw tweets related to different things being cross referenced into a mountainous cascade of arbitrages. I personally could do without spreadsheet dreams, but I guess they’re worth the poor sleep that accompanies them. I woke up and told my wife “Twitter needs to acquire a personal finance website so they can cross reference sentiment analyzed ad leads with expense reporting data and provide arbitrages to their business users” and she was like “oh honey”.I’ll check it out as soon as I have time! Thanks for the link.

    1. fredwilson

      You need a vacation!

  7. iamronen

    indeed a quality minute ๐Ÿ™‚ thank you

    1. fredwilson

      If i could have cut and pasted that i would have

  8. kidmercury

    what dick says about why they don’t finish the sentence — i.e. it’s up to the user to decide what twitter brings you closer to — is at the core of why i’m a twitter skeptic. i think niche social networks that answer that question for you — will bring you closer to statups, your family, baseball, etc — are much better positioned, and that we are going to a world with many such startups rather than the one world social networks of google/facebook/twitter etc.i look forward to seeing their financials whenever the IPO stuff goes down. i believe the bigger a network gets the tougher it becomes to monetize……i.e. the wikipedia problem grows. if it really wants to bring you closer to everything, than no one can own it. and that’s why i think a federation of niche networks is what will ultimately emerge.

    1. JamesHRH

      Kid, federation of niches cannot do one thing – bring you the entire universe.TWIT & FB are dominant because of their breadth. Anyone you want to follow who has an account. Everyone you have ever met who has an account.Anyone you are interested in, Everyone you have ever met. Those are big ideas.BTW, the discovery part will never be any good, IMO.

      1. kidmercury

        sure, federations can find a way to do that, via API implementation. federations can also provide better forms of data portability as the one worlders are more dependent upon monopolistic strategies.

        1. fredwilson

          The ironic thing is twitter could be the messaging core of a federation of niche networks

          1. Cam MacRae

            You made that point at hacking society, no? Or someone did. I found it pretty compelling except for their poor support of long form – rock and a hard place right there.

          2. awaldstein

            ‘federation of niche networks’This idea is worth dedicating a career to. So speaks to me.

          3. fredwilson

            We can discuss more at breakfast

          4. Matt A. Myers

            I want to jump in and ask, can I come? Though I’m not in NYC at the moment.

          5. Matt A. Myers

            That’s one of the things I’m working on. I know, I know – focus. I am focusing. Getting lots done. I’ll get it all done.

          6. kidmercury

            i wonder if they can effectively govern the platform if so, and if they can charge a low enough tax rate. i am more bullish on “node first, core later” strategies for disrupting the fab four (goog, amzn, fb, aapl).

          7. JamesHRH

            People more interesting than networks though?

          8. FlavioGomes

            thinking along the same lines James. Why segregate when the user can do that themselves? The world I know is the one I choose to live in and or explore. I’d rather have acces to the whole database just in case there is an undiscovered confluence happening.

          9. Alex Murphy

            They already are.

          10. Richard

            I launched tradeshowtweets in 2009 (since shut down) and piloted it at the natural food expo. It was designed to compliment walking the tradeshow floor. I was a bit early i think. I am soo bullish on the future of twitter.

          11. Matt A. Myers

            I could see that happening if Twitter’s open to “sharing”

          12. FlavioGomes

            I can’t help but think twitter is the breeding ground for 1000’s of niche networks that already exist within its domain

          13. Matt A. Myers

            Any engagement tool will help facilitate the fostering of communities. Whether those communities use and integrate Twitter deeply with their service is another story. Any smart business will understand the value of the community they are building and should likely leverage that in some way before giving all of that data to Twitter and strengthening Twitter’s ecosystem (because their own ecosystem doesn’t inherently receive the same mutual benefits in return, not long-term, not in a secured way); Smaller networks benefit from the larger networks, however that benefit doesn’t need to occur through deep integrations.

          14. FlavioGomes

            Thanks Matthew. Why is the worry about “giving all of that data to twitter and strengthening the ecosystem” concerning? Is it because you are trying to isolate the community DNA and guard the bridge to the larger network? In my opinion, Small networks only have real impact in the grand scheme of things when they embrace sharing as an asset. It would be meaningless not to join a federation…and that would lead to why a federation in the first place?

          15. Matt A. Myers

            No, it’s a leveraging play that I feel should / needs to happen for the security and stability of the network as a whole (the general master network pieces and the niche networks) – otherwise the power and revenue balance can be too off balance and nothing to keep everyone in check/in line. Fairness also comes into play in my mind.Being apart of and deeply integrating into a federation are two separate steps.And you’re welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚

          16. FlavioGomes


          17. FlavioGomes

            isn’t it already?

      2. William Mougayar

        Re: your last line, being a general-purpose platform and trying to appeal to a broad-base of consumers might make it difficult for Twitter to meet everyoneโ€™s needs in terms of filtering and recommendations. I donโ€™t think we can expect them to have a solution for all. Thatโ€™s why peripheral tools are needed. Twitter will be like a mainstream channel, whereas youโ€™ll be responsible for your personalized channels separately that will rely on Twitter, but not exclusively.

      3. William Mougayar

        I will add that Discovery itself is becoming fragmented. You discover from many places now, not just Twitter.

        1. FlavioGomes

          Which in way kinda sucks. I gotta discover new discovery engines…



        1. FlavioGomes


    2. Cam MacRae

      Re: your second paragraph – did you read the FT this morning? Lex In-Depth spoke about this (briefly) with respect to Facebook.

    3. fredwilson

      I will stay out of a discussion of twitter specifically for obvious reasons. But your broader point at the end is one i am thinking a lot about. I talked a fair bit about it at hacking society

    4. Elia Freedman

      Love the comment, kidmercury. Don’t know if I agree but leaves me food for thought. Is this really winner takes all? In the toothpaste market, P&G is dominant but there is room for an awesome, profitable brand like Tom’s to carve out its niche. Is this situation different?

    5. FlavioGomes

      I’m wrestling with your comment. Who I follow creates my own niche. I can decide to aggregate everything by my own choosing without having to navigate different ui. Twitter gives me the basic tools to do this. Virtual niche networks governed by me.Am I missing something?

      1. kidmercury

        the ease with which you establish the network you want. for instance, i have to train twitter to know that i am a conspiracy theorist by following other conspiracists i like on there. what if there was “twitter for kooks” in which everyone on there was a kook? it would be easier for me to establish my network there. the more twitter and other one worlders grow, the more costly it becomes to find your niche on there, because everything becomes more crowded.i understand we are all unique so we need a single data set to scan, and that is why the world marches onwards to one world internet, one monster graph, one big web. i think it is better to create this mega graph by connecting a bunch of independent niches rather than starting a single core and trying to get everyone on it.

        1. FlavioGomes

          Hmm..yeah I can see your point but the scale might not be economically compelling and then you’d require some form of governance to keep the experience consistent or suffer from splintering and discord. I’m starting to believe that the federation you speak of already exists virtually. Just requires better tooling.

        2. FlavioGomes

          Hmm again…yes…It’s a solution to a different problem. Small focused networks that would startup regardless could eventually take advantage of scale by creating treaties. Along tail union so to speak. The implications of organizing this data would be real challenging. But Small networks are being born everyday. Uh huh…im starting to see your point of view.

          1. FlavioGomes

            I could be way off base but wasn’t Ning attempting to do this?

        3. Pete Griffiths

          Facebook is facing this problem at huge scale. Trying to graft interest graph data that it needs to monetize its base onto a core experience that is social, not interest based, is impacting the signal to noise ratio.



      1. Pete Griffiths

        I have a suspicion this may be wrong.

    7. Pete Griffiths

      Very interesting point. I have been thinking a lot about this recently. What do you mean by “…then no one can own it” ???

    8. Shyam Subramanyan

      If you look carefully, these niche networks actually exists within Twitter as “tweet chats”. For pretty much any topic you choose. You can see a list of them here –…. Just setup a stream on TweetDeck/Hootsuite and you have your niche network.I believe monetization for Twitter should be possible by letting these user created “networks” flourish and adding some kind of structure to them.BTW, I am yet to see the video – shows me an ad everytime I click play, but not the Costolo video!

  9. ShanaC

    I’m still trying to understand the difference between discover and finding relevant information around the fact that I am tweeting…

    1. William Mougayar

      I think that new Discover feature is very 1.0ish. It doesn’t relate closely yet to what your stream has, but rather what’s popular out there. Perhaps when they integrate Summify’s technology a bit further, you will get your 2nd wish.

      1. falicon

        Agree with you on it being an early version/take…popular is all that Summify really was as well and I *believe* the Summify team was really acquired to work on an email product (not discovery)…the Julpan team is the acquisition team that is actually focused on search and discovery (and they are based in NY…the Summify team is based in CA).

      2. Varun Shetty

        I actually like the fact that the discovery feature is different from your twitter stream. If not, it would be redundant to the stream. One of the issues I’ve had with Twitter recently is that I’ve felt stuck in a little bit of an echo chamber – it’s nice to see broader stories (beyond trending topics) that are occurring outside of the people that I’m following.

        1. William Mougayar

          You bring up a good point. I think both sides are needed. The current discovery is like the big headlines now, but it might be slightly tainted by your current stream’s interests. It might be interesting to ask Twitter exactly how they do that, and where they are taking it. If I was the interviewer, I would have dived deeper into asking Dick where they are taking Discovery and how they are doing it.

    2. falicon

      relevance is a part of discovery (which relies heavily on personalization)…but I think discovery is a really general thing that can mean just about anything.Anything you didn’t know about prior to now…that’s discovery…but just because I point out something you’ve never seen before, doesn’t mean it’s relevant (or interesting) to you.BTW – an interesting aside to this topic to me is how ‘real time’ comes into play with discovery. Twitter is all about the ‘real time’ world…but often, the best discovery is based around historical fact/event…and the ‘real time’ only comes into play within my own world (ie. when I am personally getting into WWII, that’s when WWII information is relevant to me and discovery of WWII events/details/pictures is what I’m looking for…but as we all know, WWII itself isn’t happening in ‘real time’ any more.There’s just so much nuance that goes into this stuff…and it really is just so much about the individual…that’s why it’s an important problem (and one of the unsolved holy grails of the internet).

      1. RichardF

        +1 (liked, agree etc)

  10. Brandon Marker

    Twitter is beautifully simple. I feel like Facebook is noise. Twitter is focused ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc, because of the limitation of characters. People think more before posting on Twitter.Without the ability to post your responses on another user’s content, there are less threads of trolling, extreme opinions, people taking offence, preaching, blah, blah, blah. While it may be present, you won’t see them unless opening that comment. Being able to simply collapse the noise is beautiful and clean. This will be where Facebook eventually falls behind Twitter.I cannot take many more “like for abortion, Marines that are burned, Jesus…”

  11. William Mougayar

    “Focused on organizational clarity.” No kidding quote”From 3 years to 1 billion tweet to 3 days to 1 billion.” Amazing fact quote”We know geography”. Classic quote”The gap between awareness and engagement is discovery.” Telling quote.”The unit of monetization has to be the tweet.” Money quote”The ad itself must be organic content.” Content quote”Advertisers only pay when the user engages with the tweet.” Devil in detail quote”I’m never going to optimize for short revenue at the expense of either user experience or the longevity of the platform or company.” I don’t care what you think quote”Twitter brings you closer.” Ad potential quoteI think Dick is doing a great job at Twitter.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Agreed. And thank you for writing these out so I don’t have to! Some gems in there. I love what becomes discovered at the forefront of innovation.

    2. Aaron Klein

      He’s definitely a case study for me. A great example of a leader who doesn’t make it all about him and works hard every day to put the people and plans into place to move the company toward its goals.I’d really like to see his schedule and how he allocates time.

    3. FlavioGomes

      Thanks the video locks up on me…so that was a nice recap.

    4. JamesHRH

      Agreed – dude has it going on.I do think he is a little off base on ‘discovery’. I mean, the service popularized the idea of following ( with no private eye or stalking reference ! ).So, ‘The gap between awareness & engagement is ‘…….following, isn’t it?Great comment btw mon ami!

      1. William Mougayar

        You could argue that discovery leads to more following. I think Discovery is a v1 for Twitter. Give them a break ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. JamesHRH

          Hey – he gets 11 out of 10 for having ‘organizational clarity’ on the To Do list.Boiling your company down to one word is not a 2 day offsite for most folks….



        1. Richard

          Gap has closed. You can only chew on so many tweets, the break through will be a system that uses machine learning to turn down tweets.

          1. FlavioGomes

            Maybe votes will help determine that, attracting you to the conversation and then you can choose to dig deeper.

        2. JamesHRH

          Maybe I am too literal here – I am aware of an interesting person, so I follow then.Like you partner.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. Matt A. Myers

            Not on Twitter (if they’re not already on Twitter).

      3. Matt A. Myers

        @fredwilson:disqus Potential bug to tell Disqus – the parent comment by @jameshrh:disqus listed for me as “This thread has been hidden due to reports of abuse” or whatever it is.. though has no downvotes.

        1. FlavioGomes

          Same for me

        2. William Mougayar

          I saw that and re-opened it. it was weird cc: @disqus

        3. fredwilson

          yup. i sent the bug report in

    5. fredwilson

      Me too

    6. Richard

      Powerful, Confident and Correct.

  12. David Noรซl

    Dick is a great leader. Always a pleasure to listen to him speak about Twitter.

  13. Tom Labus

    The best thing management can do is keep a light hand on the tiller and let the wind take them on a great ride.

  14. Will Sommers

    Fred, check out an idea, a smoker and some wood they’ve raised 60k(2500 lbs x 25$) via a Launchrock and Shopify site. All in 48 hours.We’ll see how the Health Department and logistics work, but still its really great to see crowdfunding applied to different fields.

    1. LE

      Once they sellout there won’t be anything to close down. They will then have time to get their act together and do things right after proving the concept.

    2. fredwilson

      I will check it out

  15. Guest

    I have been experimenting, to a more or lessor degree, for the last year, with Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, and blogging. Out of all of them Twitter is by far the easiest to use and understand on one level and the most complex on another.On one hand I keep telling myself that I have “to do” more with Twitter and at the same time I realize that I actually check in with Twitter much more than I do anything else. It is that easily ingrained in my daily life that you don’t even recognize its utility.Then when you actually take the time to study it you realize that its utility can grow exponentially; it truly is a “platform.”I can’t help but admire the genius of Dick Costolo and the Twitter team. As I see it Zuckerburg and Facebook was just a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time, but Twitter is sheer genius.

    1. awaldstein

      I hear your sentiment Carl and am on a ‘bored with Facebook’ rant lately but to attribute Facebook’s success to luck is not correct in my opinion.Lot’s of strokes of genius there and creativity and hard work.Am I Twitter user. Big time. But credit is due on both sides. Both are world changers.



  16. Dave Pinsen

    I watched the first 10 minute segment of the interview. I don’t think Costolo does the best job of articulating the benefits of Twitter for a typical user there. The pitcher looking for someone to play catch with isn’t a typical user (the guy who responded may be, but he also sort of won the lottery in connecting with the pitcher in RL). The typical user with < 1,000 followers isn’t likely to get any response to a request for something in real life, in real time.That doesn’t mean Twitter isn’t useful; it is. But maybe Costolo and co. ought to think more about why we non-famous folks use it ( @aaronklein offers a nice explanation in this thread).

    1. LE

      And also why some non-famous folks such as myself don’t use it.

    2. awaldstein

      Glad you raised this.Twitter is an essential and powerful tool for me.To most, not so and you are correct that Twitter does little to bring in the mass market. I’m presuming it’s somewhat by choice as they certainly are smart enough and funded enough to do so.What I do know is what Arianna Huffington calls ‘Self expression as entertainment’ is real and there are minions who I bet are ready to move from Facebook to something else, maybe Twitter. An opportunity if they want it.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Judging by the numbers Costolo quotes on the current volume of tweets, it looks like Twitter has brought in a mass market.If Twitter were just about self expression, it wouldn’t be a powerful tool for so many of us. You’d see the arc of a typical blog applied to micro-blogging. Twitter becomes more useful (IMO, at least), when you spend as much or more time listening as you do talking.

        1. awaldstein

          Nicely said.I’m a good listener.

  17. jason wright

    Dick needs to study his political geography. The Basques are not in Barcelona or Catalunya.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      “They (Twitter) know geography” is the quote, not “I know geography.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. William Carleton

    Twitter rocks. I’m going through a period of quasi-fatigue with many social media services, but Twitter becomes ever more productive, rewarding and essential. (I think that may be because the user essentially still remains in control of her experience.)

  19. Alex Murphy

    Love the last comment about everyone worrying about Twitter’s business. We are all better off if we focus on our own issues rather than the issues we perceive others to have.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Well, in all honesty if you’re building a business based on another platform you want it to be successful. I personally understand and see how Twitter makes money, and will not go out of business – however there may be some who don’t know or understand / realize this, so that’s why the question / concern could arise. CEO had a great response though.

  20. Richard

    Love how he started out with scaling the operation and organizational structure! This a the kind of stuff you just dont hear about! Fred, how about a series on this one subject? What are the 1000 people doing at twitter? can we get a generic breakdown by category?

  21. Richard

    What a pro! What a rewarding 30 minutes. Thanks for posting Fred and keep this file handy for any time you need a rerun.

  22. testtest

    personally i don’t like the new disqus ui. the raw data is ugly. it’s like looking at a log file

    1. fredwilson

      i know what you mean. it needs a bit more structure. i’ve said the same thing to Daniel

  23. Pete Griffiths

    Very impressive CEO. Smart, articulate, disciplined, focused…