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Twitter founders announce developments, reassure developers at San Francisco conference

The co-founders of Twitter Inc., the 4-year-old San Francisco Internet sensation, spoke about its whirlwind past and its plans for the future at its inaugural developers conference, Chirp, in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Biz Stone and Evan Williams took the stage, Stone reflecting on the company’s achievements, Williams highlighting the direction of the company that has drawn international attention.

First the numbers: Twitter says it has more than 105 million registered users, 180 million unique visitors to Twitter.com (75% of the Twitter traffic comes from outside of the Twitter site), and it’s adding 300,000 new users every day. It’s experiencing more than 1,500% growth a year. It fields 600 million search queries each day. And it gets 55 million tweets a day.

Twitter has evolved over the last four years from a crude sketch on a piece of paper in 2006 to a breakaway pop-culture phenomenon (Ashton Kutcher’s race against CNN for a million followers on Twitter) and crucial political force (unrest in Iran prompted the State Department to ask Twitter to cancel a planned outage).

“The open exchange of information has a positive impact on the world,” Williams said.

Now the company must figure out how to catapult Twitter into the mainstream by making it easier for people to sign up and use it. Williams pointed out that the No. 2 suggestion for a Google search of “I don’t get” is “I don’t get Twitter,” right after “I don’t get drunk, I get awesome.”

That’s at the heart of the dilemma facing Twitter and its developers. “When we did the research we found that we were really underserving users,” Williams said. “We’re not getting nearly as many users started and engaged.”

Both tried to soften the blow of a series of moves in the last week (announcing official mobile applications, rolling out an advertising strategy) that have alarmed developers, who have given Twitter a huge boost by building features and applications that make the service easier and more addictive to use.

"You guys have not only made Twitter better, you've helped shape it,” Williams said. “You've helped define what it is for us and millions of users."

The company also made a couple of significant announcements. Internet search giant Google Inc. and the Library of Congress plan to index Twitter’s massive archive. And Twitter is introducing a feature called “Points of Interest,” which will allow people to see all the tweets emanating from a particular spot. Williams said the feature was not intended to compete with geolocation services such as Foursquare and Gowalla.

One of the focal points of the conference was slated for Wednesday afternoon, when Twitter will discuss its money-making agenda in more detail.

"Revenue is happening at Twitter this year," Williams said. He told developers: "It's not just about us, but it's about you if you choose to participate in that."

-- Jessica Guynn 

 
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