Evan Williams Keynote Interview

Monday, March 15, 2010
Evan Williams – Twitter
Umair Haque – Havas Media Lab

Williams has co-founded several Internet companies, including Pyra Labs (creator of weblog-authoring software Blogger) and Twitter, the now ubiquitous social media platform that hit its tipping-point at SXSW in 2007. In addition to his role as Director of the Havas Media Lab, Umair Haque founded Bubblegeneration, an agenda-setting advisory boutique that shaped strategies across media and consumer industries.

Twitter Announcement:

  • The new @ platform for integrating twitter into websites “@Anywhere
  • You can easily follow people from a link dynamically inside a website (hover).
  • You can also sign-into a website with your Twitter ID.
  • 13 partners (Digg, Amazon, etc.)


  • It reduces fiction
  • You can easily tweet from the column itself.
  • You can easily follow the author straight from the byline.
  • It puts things into context of a site/story.
  • It can give you a connection back to users that wasn’t previously there.
  • I can also get more people talking about you or your content, and bring in tweets about your site/content.


  • Focused on how to create the best product for consumers and businesses.
  • Business is on twitter right now, and consumers are opting into messages from them now.
  • What is Twitter?
    An information network that helps people discover what’s going on in the world that they care about and share what is going on around them. You can take advantage without sharing (just follow what you like).

How does Twitter handle iteration?

  • Twitter experiments a lot – there are a lot of people in twitter doing what they think is best.
  • People are organized into autonomous teams focused on something specific (international, mobile, etc.)
  • What is Ev’s role?
    1/2 big picture direction, 1/2 is internal culture of the company. Openness is a big value of twitter.

Openness – what does it mean at Twitter?

  • Openness or transparency – “a windows is transparent, a door is open” A door lets you come in and mess with what’s going on and not just look at what is going on.
  • Openness is really a survival technique – being open to the idea that you’re wrong, and other people have good ideas. “Assume there are more smart people outside the company vs. inside.”

Why Give the Golden Goose Away?

  • Sharing data openly: MS Bing Google get full stream. There is no business model yet, maybe it doesn’t make sense to give this data away. Decision was made on principle of giving the most value per user.
  • There are millions of tweets per day – tapping into the technology of those partners will allow more people to find/search, and find valuable information on Twitter.
  • It was a tough decision to come to… didn’t want to limit to just a few folks. Why limit it?
  • Third party developers have been able to fill holes. How are businesses going to be able to take advantage of Twitter.
  • There are real businesses to be built on top of Twitter. Twitter.com (the site) isn’t meant to be used for business. It’s a consumer interface.

Apple regulates App Store – how open is Twitter?

  • Error on the side of openness.
  • Some control is still needed. Bad things happen all the time. If were were totally fully open, it would be a disservice to our users. It shouldn’t be easy to spam on twitter – that needs to be stopped.
  • Some management is needed for the ecosystem.

Inclusiveness – Unique Uses

  • Chilean sent an email to thank Twitter for the tool to help communicate after the natural disaster.
  • Twitter is made to reach the weakest communications areas. It’s very simple.
  • Pushing really strong growth in areas (India now) with SMS access in regions where the communication infrastructure is not that powerful.
  • The value of a little bit of information can be really powerful in certain areas of the world.

What is an active user?

  • Is someone getting value out of twitter? It’s very hard to nail down what a user is (outside of just having an account).
  • It could be someone just searching on a site, or using a 3rd party app to watch a brand.
  • There isn’t as much emphasis on the “tell the world what you’re doing,” and now it’s more “there is something on twitter for everyone.”
  • As people consume information on twitter, it’s easier to get involved.
  • Robert Gibbs (white house press secretary) is using Twitter to send messages you normally don’t see in an official communication.
  • India minister is using Twitter in a way that causes some waves.
  • It reduces the number of walls from people who have influence and those who don’t (what the internet should be).
  • If you can share with the world with as few barriers as possible, that’s a big deal!

Is state-control standing in the way of the Internet (Twitter)?

  • Not all nations have the open internet.
  • The internet is a tidal wave that nobody can keep back.
  • We ultimately want to have an impact on the world (either small or large is good) – saving someone’s vacation or announcing the cookies are out of the oven.

Business Model

  • Help people make a better decisions that they wouldn’t have already made. Help people get something done.
  • Haiti awareness with the donation spread on Twitter. People want to hep out, and reducing the friction helps that.
  • Looking at how businesses are using Twitter – there is a new communication method between customers and businesses. It’s more than just clicking on a link and getting information.
  • If this channel helps a business get better, that’s very powerful. It’s even more powerful if it helps both large and small businesses.
  • If you live on the web, you are used to having a relationship with the companies you use. In the real world, it is just a black box. You can finally close the loop with these technologies.

Ambition – 21st Century Businesses have Ambitions

  • Twitter’s vision is down to fostering the exchange for information as a force for good.
  • You can help people control what they pay attention to – save them time vs. cost them time and share things with other people that they’ve learned.

Where is Twitter’s Advantage?

  • Twitter’s advantage only comes when everyone wins. They only do win/win deals.
  • Revenue generating pieces of twitter haven’t been implemented because they don’t want to sacrifice the network.
  • The advantage is having a more thriving network over the next guy – creating an advantage for other people.
  • If you’re closed there is always an advantage to work around you. When open, it just works and nobody needs to work around the openness.

What makes you keep building these things?

  • Creating things in the world that didn’t exist before. Your product should be at the end of the sentence, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if __________?”
  • People look at business and money as the goal vs. the means.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *