"What Had God Twat?" - Twitter's Ev Williams on the Future of Twitter

"What Had God Twat?" - Twitter's Ev Williams on the Future of Twitter

While his co-founder Biz Stone was sharing every "mundane detail of every moment of his life" on the Colbert Report (highlight: "Biz in Biz Stone does not stand for business model"), Ev Williams was on hand at the Web 2.0 Expo taking questions from video blogger Veronica Belmont on how his product has set off an avalanche of behavioral and communication change. After hearing rumors that they were being bought by Google (this morning at the w2e Keynotes GOOG VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra smirked and remarked "no comment" when asked the question of the hour - leading at least one journalist to take a stab at the answer), we attended the remarkably under the radar taping of the Techzilla lounge and continuing in the "do what you do best and link to all the rest" tradition of the Internet, we transcribed the best of what was said below, for those of you that can't wait for the show to come out next Thursday.

Veronica Belmont: What do you think about how the product has changed, how has Twitter evolved?

Ev Williams: What has changed is how we think about it - it's a way to keep track of the things you care about part of that may be your friends and your family and co workers and part of that may be what people are saying about a big event that's going on like Web 2.0 expo or a summit or a super bowl so we're trying to build that aspect into the product more and that's why we're testing the search as a more integral part of the product and the evolution will be more along those lines I think.

How have people been responding to having search built into replies, has it been mostly positive?

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The vast majorities been positive yes, so that was always kind of confusing and still confusing how replies work, it's one of the issues going back to your previous question about how the product has evolved - the ways it has changed have mostly been user driven so the whole concept of replies wasn't in the product at first and users wanted a way to address someone else so someone started doing the @ symbol and the username and it never occurred to us until people started doing it and we thought, "well, that signifies the user, let's make that link to the user then how do we make these work in the product so it's continually evolving, what we're trying to do is just support what people are apparently [naturally] trying to do.

Are you surprised at the way people are using Twitter? For other than just communicating and sending messages back and forth, are you surprised at the way people have been using it as a promotional tool and things like that?

We're constantly surprised. It's amazing everyday we see uses that surprise us from the businesses have been using it a lot which isn't terribly surprising but how they're using it is a little surprising, from Dell embracing it very early on, to twit out deals and Twitter only coupons or little businesses, just became aware of one here in San Francisco, it's a spa and they'll tweet out a spot open on their massage table so they'll say, "call and book right now for the three o' clock and you'll get $30 off and it makes tons of sense.

You'll have to send that one to me later. That's one to keep track of. We had some questions from actual Twitter users because we thought that would be appropriate. From Twitter: Any recommendations for people trying to start tech startups ed note (lol) you apparently have a lot of experience with that?

That's a big topic [laughs]. The core thing would just be do something awesome. [Audience erupts in laughter]. Try not to get caught up in the echo chamber, that's the toughest thing, when you're trying to break out and do something original a lot of things are evolutionary and it's easy to get caught up in what the geek subculture thinks and there are a lot of valuable businesses that can be built there but I think that's where a lot of people tend to spin their wheels. I've been caught up there before, but I've had more successful things when I've just thought back to basics. What do I want and what do I want to see in the world and create that.

From Twitter: What's your opinion on the new Facebook and their redesign?

Did they redesign? [Smirk] Facebook is great. I use Facebook I have lots of friends on Facebook it makes a lot of sense to me what they did. I'm not a hardcore Facebook user but I'm very impressed by a lot of stuff they did. They did a lot of stuff that we want to do. That has been on our road map so that's great.

So that's something you would want to go more towards? Do you see Twitter becoming a platform like Facebook?

Well it depends on the definition of a platform but we have hundreds, possibly thousands of developers who build on Twitter today so by some people's definition that would be a platform. We have companies that are getting funded that are basically based on Twitter, stocktwits raise money and entirely focus on Twitter there's several other companies that are building products exclusively for Twitter and building actual businesses doing that so a lot of that has been organic and we haven't done a lot other than putting the API out there early and to answer people's questions we haven't done a lot to support that as much as we'd like to to help both developers and users take advantage of the ecosystem.

With the world slowly evolving into two camps -- "people who twitter" and people who ask "what is twitter?" -- the best is yet to come. And yes to find out more about what we're doing right NOW AT THIS MOMENT - follow us on Twitter at @alexiatsotsis and @laweekly.

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