Even as Twitter continues its hunt for a new CEO, Twitter co-founder and board member Evan Williams says that Twitter has more-or-less finally figured out what it really is: a realtime news platform.
This identity opens up a whole new future for the company, Williams explained on stage at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado.
“Early on we didn’t know what Twitter was. We thought it was a social network, some people called it micro blogging,” he said.
But today Williams sees it as “a real time information network”, adding that “news is what Twitter excels at.”
No matter the topic, Twitter is “guaranteed to have all the info you’re looking for, first hand reports, rumours, links to stories as soon as they are published. All that is there.”
Having said that, he says that Twitter knows the company needs to develop better tools to organise and find that information. “It’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. I agree that needs to be better.”
Williams also suggested that it was time for Twitter to look for new ways to connect with software developers and to take another stab at making Twitter a platform. Twitter famously went to war with developers several years ago when it restricted developers’ access to the API that allowed developers to grab Twitter data for their own use.
The API was, “One of our strategic errors we had to wind down over time,” Evans explained. “It wasn’t a win/win for developers, users and the company.”
But Twitter needs to do something to bring developers back, he suggested. “Twitter should be more of a platform than it is,” he said, hinting that this is exactly what Twitter is working on now, not waiting for a permanent CEO.
“There are a lot of things going on. New products, new source of revenue,” he says. When pressed on what those new revenue streams looked like, he says. “I’ve already said too much.”
Business is “really solid”
One complaint you can’t make about the company, in his opinion, is its financials.
Twitter got pounded by investors in April when it reported a disappointing quarter and revenue projections below what the Street wanted to hear, amidst long-standing handwriting over Twitter’s direction and its innovation or lack of it.
Shortly afterward, in June, the company’s embattled CEO Dick Costolo resigned.
That was Costolo’s own choice, Williams told the crowd.
Williams, who is on the Twitter board’s CEO search committee, wouldn’t say much about the progress of the CEO search when asked about it.
But he defended the company’s financial performance.
“Twitter’s revenue stream is pretty good. I wouldn’t say we haven’t figured that out. The business is really solid,” he said. “But we have so much potential with the new products we could develop.”