As Occupy Wall Street protesters marched in the streets of Manhattan on Mayday, another group of agitators were on stage touting disruption of a different kind.
Among the speakers at Wired's Disruptive by Design conference, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo drew a lot of attention for his somewhat contrarian views. With Facebook's IPO looming, he rejected the notion that his social enterprise is missing out on an IPO window, saying, "We don't see any need or urgency to even think about that stuff…I'm never going to optimize for short-term revenue at the expense of user experience. If people think we're going too cautiously, I don't care. They can stay on the sidelines.
Costolo added that with $1 billion in venture funds in its coffers, "We don't need to worry about financing now. Google went public on its own terms. If you have a great business, you can be a public company whenever you want to be a public company. You're not beholden to a window."
He also said he found everyone's concern about the site's business model amusing. Yes, Twitter will be expanding its Promoted Tweets advertising program and expects to garner $250 million a year in revenues. "We're confident we've got a hit on our hands," he commented.
Costolo confirmed that Twitter is exploring a premium version, a.k.a. a “pro” service for individual users with “lightweight controls. Our designers and engineers would define how that would work. I don’t know what it will look like,” he said.
He aslo acknowledged the site's issues, including the need to facilitate "discovery" and conections. To that end, the site is promoting its recently-added Discover tab for web and mobile, which has received a facelift. Back in December, Chairman Jack Dorsey said, “Twitter should be usable for people who know the shortcuts and also equally usable for those who don’t.”
Twitter's blog post states that, “The Discover tab’s new design shows who tweeted about particular stories. You can click “View Tweets" on any story to see popular Tweets from your network or recent, relevant Tweets directly below the story summary. This social context helps you understand why each story matters to you and makes it easier to join the conversation. You can reply, retweet or favorite these Tweets, or you can “Tweet this story” to share your own perspective.”
It’s Twitter’s attempt to make its unique and somewhat arcane operating ethos more accessible to the newcomer and average user. Increased “personalization signals” in the tweaked Discovery engine will surface trending topics and tweet-streams amongst followers, introduce new arrivals to like-minded users to follow, and taking a cue from Facebook, provide stickier and broader context to better socialize tweets.
Twitter’s user base is now 130 million and over 340 million tweets are sent each day. “All of this social data is used to understand your interests and display stories that are relevant to you in real-time,” said director of engineering Ori Allon, explaining the underlying technology in a blog post.
"Discover Your World" is a theme the Twitter brand has been promising since last year, but has been working out the kinks. Over the coming weeks the company will roll out the redesigned Discover experience on Twitter.com, iPhone and Android, and “continue to work to make discovery on Twitter a magical experience that brings you instantly closer to the information that matters most to you at the right time, any time.”