Ina Fried

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Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Says Company Needs to Unify Its Experience Across Devices

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said on Monday that although the service is available on nearly every phone, the company has a long way to go to make the product consistent across devices.

“The experience has to be the same,” Costolo said during an afternoon keynote speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “I shouldn’t have to think how to use Twitter.”

About 40 percent of tweets come from a mobile device, while half of all active users are active on more than one device, he said.

Until not that long ago, Twitter built only the product for the Web and let third parties handle phones and other devices. In recent months, though, it has scooped up various app makers and now offers official apps for the major smartphones. However, given that those official apps stem from different acquisitions, they often work in different ways.

Costolo said the company also wants to make sure that one doesn’t have to sign up and follow lots of people to get something out of the service.

“We want Twitter to be instantly useful,” he said.

With Twitter for Windows Phone 7, the company introduced the notion, already present on the Web, that one shouldn’t have to be an active user to have Twitter on their phone.

His talk is still ongoing and I’ll update things as it continues.

5:32 pm: Costolo said the company will begin offering crowdsourced translations of the service into Russian, Turkish and Indonesian and, later this year, will have its own translation to Portuguese.

5:33 pm: Some stats from Super Bowl, this year.

4,000 tweets per second at the end of the game and 3,000 tweets per second during the game. That was 27 tweets per second in 2008.

The overall record is New Year’s Eve in Japan (the country has a single time zone) and the prior sporting event record was from last year’s World Cup.

5:34 pm: Twitter is actually bringing things back to live TV and away from the DVR.

“That’s not just happening with live sporting events,” Costolo said. He cites game shows in the U.K.

5:36 pm: “Glee,” for example, has 30 times the number of tweets about it when the show is on.

Takeaway: the long-talked about second screen of interactive TV is here and it is Twitter.

5:38 pm: About Twitter as a business: The short answer is we are already making money, Costolo said. The really good thing, he said, is that businesses can use the service in the same way as others–building community around shared interest.

5:41 pm: A viral campaign of note. Al-Jazeera highlighting its coverage of the events in the Middle East and North Africa with the hashtag #demandaljazeera to get its programming on U.S. cable systems.

5:44 pm: Costolo, on the role of Twitter and Facebook in recent events there:

“I think that takes away from what these people have accomplished,” he said. “We are probably a very small piece of the puzzle.”

5:47 pm: On to Q&A. Battery is running low, but hoping to make it through the question period.

First question came in over Twitter and asks what is the company’s biggest fear.

“Twitter’s biggest fear is lack of execution,” Costolo said, saying he tries to convince workers not to focus on competitors. “If we execute on what we are trying to do we will be successful.”

5:48 pm: A couple of questions on local trends and translations. Costolo said that crowdsourcing offers a way to do more translations quickly, while the trends piece requires more work on Twitter’s part, some of which should be done this year.

5:53 pm: What is the biggest mistake Twitter has made?

Costolo said company’s founders would say they shot themselves in the foot, head and everywhere else not hiring or scaling fast enough.

“I think we are out of the woods on that one,” Costolo said.

Next question is on what Twitter is doing in response to its pivotal role in Arabic-speaking countries right now. Costolo noted that Twitter doesn’t yet support right-to-left languages.

On being blocked, Costolo said Twitter is only a 350-person company and doesn’t have the resources of some larger companies. “We try to just leverage our own platform to plead for help,” he said.

5:58 pm: Costolo is asked if there is a need for Twitter-branded smartphones.

“No,” Costolo said. “I believe there is a need for Twitter in the existing platforms.”

Earlier in his keynote, Costolo said he wants deep integration so that when a user takes a picture they don’t have to open a separate app to tweet out that picture.

6:03 pm: As for rumors that Google might be willing to pay $10 billion for the company.

“I don’t know where these things come from,” Costolo said. “It’s just a rumor.”

6:03 pm: End of keynote. (just as my battery was on its last sliver of red, too!

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work