Dissecting Twitter's Role In Tech, Society, Politics2:19 PM EST Tue. Jun. 16, 2009
A virtual -- no, make that in-person -- lineup of social networking celebrities lined up Tuesday to put the dramatic adoption of Twitter as a social and technological change agent into perspective. In the process, the 140-character-at-a-time service has begun to look more like a competitor to Google than ever.
Gathering at the 140 Characters Conference in New York, led by entrepreneur and tech pioneer Jeff Pulver, speakers including Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey offered their views on the impact of Twitter and other social streaming communication innovations on business, culture and technology.
Dorsey addressed the conference by recounting his start as a 15-year-old boy, programming software that could map in realtime the presence of taxis or New York City emergency workers in that city.
"It made the city of New York -- the greatest city in the world -- feel very small because suddenly I could see the [people] who made the city work and made the city function," Dorsey said. Earlier this year, Dorsey said a speech by President Obama, tweeted in real time by many as it happened, showed "not just how a city works, but how a government works."
Dorsey addressed a group of about 400 people -- a group made up of technologists, investors, journalists and more.
He opened his remarks by telling the audience, to cheers, that Twitter had postponed downtime for site maintenance on its service by more than a day so the service could stay up and running for citizens and users in Iran who were using Twitter to communicate about the political protests and uprisings in that country.
The Iran situation, where Twitter continued to provide communication resources to Iran residents after the government had shut down other communication platforms, has acted as one more exclamation point to the growing adoption and importance of short-form social networking services.
It also happened at a time when businesses are showing greater interest than ever in integrating social networking into technology, marketing and sales models -- a topic also discussed at the conference.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of online storefront Zappos.com, during a panel conversation on Twitter in business told the crowd the service has been integrated into its operations in a straightforward way -- linking employees to other employees and the company to customers. "We think of it the same way as we think of a telephone," Hsieh said.
Fred Wilson, managing partner of New York-based Flatiron Partners and Union Square Ventures, and an investor in Twitter, told the gathering that he has found growth in "passed links" to his own Web sites from Twitter has begun growing at a strong rate. He estimated that Twitter is showing about 30 percent to 40 percent growth in this measurement, per month, compared to one or two percent for search giant Google. The result, Wilson said, is that growth and activity of "passed links" from sites such as Twitter now mirror that of search engines at this stage in the evolution of search. Other speakers also suggested that links from Twitter or Facebook now comprise about 20 percent of their overall Web-based traffic.
The conference continues through Wednesday.