Twitter dismisses $10bn Google deal and talks up mobile

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News, Barcelona

  • Published
Dick Costolo
Image caption,
Mr Costolo announced plans for a crowd-sourced translation service

Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo has dismissed talk of a $10bn deal with Google as "rumour" during a keynote speech at Mobile World Congress.

He laughed off questions about tie-ups with Facebook and Google, saying he didn't know "where such talk came from".

Instead he concentrated on the importance of the service's growth, especially on mobile.

According to Mr Costolo, 40% of tweets now come from mobile platforms.

He said that the service needed "deeper integration" in smartphones as well as to extend how it was made available to more basic phones.

Mr Costolo said that he wanted Twitter to work seamlessly on all mobile software.

"We want deep smartphone integration and stronger text messaging integration. It has to just work the same way everywhere it is used," he said.

But he offered little detail on how this would be achieved, beyond saying that he wanted more "single sign-ons".

"We want to be able to tweet from any app, without having to fire up another application," he said.

More detail on how Twitter could be integrated with mobiles would have been useful, said Eden Zoller, principal analyst at research firm Ovum.

"We expected more; for example what Twitter is doing to build its application ecosystem given the importance of apps in adding value to the service and the fact that a growing number of Twitter users interact with the service via apps," she said.

"We also hoped Twitter would show that it intends to leverage mobile location better than it is, and likewise search," she added.

Expansion plans

Currently Twitter's revenues are made in three key ways - from promoted trends, which allows companies to pay to appear in its top ratings, and sponsored and promoted tweets.

Much of the keynote speech was devoted to Twitter's phenomenal growth.

Image caption,
Twitter's plans to make money are still uncertain

Twitter now regularly carries 130 million tweets a day and during major events, such as the football World Cup can see upwards of 3,000 tweets a second, Mr Costolo said.

The record, he revealed, was 6,000 tweets per second in Japan at New Year's Eve.

Mr Costolo also spoke of the importance of the platform as a political tool, with basic services such as speak-to-tweet, a partnership with Google which allowed users to send tweets as voicemail and read them as texts, proving crucial in recent citizen protests in Egypt.

He announced that a crowd-sourcing translation service will soon be coming to Twitter.

He revealed that increasing numbers of users are coming to the service as passive consumers.

"More users of Twitter aren't tweeting," he said.

"We have to understand that many are here just for consumption, they just want to follow content," he added.

He hinted at possible expansion of Twitter's social network.

"If new users come to Twitter and have a couple of social connections they are far more likely to remain engaged users," he revealed.

Windows world

Mr Costolo did also hint at possible tie-ups with TV advertisers, playing up Twitter's value during TV shows such as live sports, saying that the service was turning people against DVRs and on-demand services because they preferred to watch in "real time" so that they could tweet.

Twitter was allowing interactive TV to become a reality. "Twitter is the second screen," he said.

The assertion will be welcomed by TV advertisers which have seen revenues fall as a result of people using DVRs and other methods to watch content.

Ms Zoller was disappointed that Mr Costolo did not say more about how he intends for the company to make money.

"Twitter quoted figures on healthy growth and use, which is good but not surprising. What it didn't provide was concrete details on was how effective its nascent businesses are proving to be in driving revenues - lots of case studies of cool brands using Twitter but no hard line on the margins this brings to Twitter," she said.

In an earlier keynote speech, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer revealed that it plans to integrate Twitter as one of a raft of updates to Windows phones, coming later this year.

Other updates include a version of Microsoft's latest browser, Internet Explorer 9, for phones and deeper ties with gaming services Xbox and Kinect.

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