While Google+ or Facebook will ban your account if you call yourself Bozo123 in lieu of using your real name, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo welcomes the Bozos — and he thinks Twitter will make more money because of that choice.
“We are wedded to letting people use the service as they see fit,” Costolo said in an informal ‘State of the Union’ get-together with tech reporters in San Francisco Thursday. “Other services may be declaring that you have to use your real name because they think they will be able to monetize that better and think they will be able to get more information about you that will help them monetize better.
“We are more interested in serving our users first, and we think by serving that by serving our users first, we will have a better platform for marketers and advertisers.”
Costolo confirmed that Twitter users, which now number 100 million active users a month (defined as those who log-in at least once), will start seeing more “sponsored” Tweets. Additionally, the company will start including these Tweets in users’ streams based on who they follow and who the people they follow follow. These will show up both for those who use Twitter.com’s interface or any mobile client.
And marketers won’t care at all what screen name a person uses, since they only pay when someone clicks on a link in a sponsored tweet, respond to it or retweet it.
So even if it’s bozo1234 that clicks on Virgin America’s promotion offer, that person will use their real name to buy the ticket.
Costolo also said that Twitter is working on a self-serve ad system (much like Google and Facebook have) that will let small and medium-sized advertisers buy promoted tweets — using geo-tagging and one assumes some sort of interest or keyword targeting.
As for Google+, Costolo sounded an unworried note, though he concedes it won’t have trouble attracting users.
“There’s no doubt they will pull in massive number of users, because they are bundling it with their dominant search platforms, one of the top two mobile platforms [Android] and YouTube and Gmail and on and on. You can’t not see the little red number in the upper right corner of the fan bar, and now they are even animating it.
“But I think where we are different is we are thinking about Twitter in terms of how can we simplify the product even further, what can we take out. I think these other platforms will try to add services and we will try to simplify ours down.”
Costolo calls that the philosophy of “offering simplicity in a world of complexity.” To that end, Twitter is working on making it easier for new users to figure out how to use the service — prompting them to start with following people relevant to their interest, rather than presenting them with a box prompting them to Tweet something to nonexistent followers.
That strategy makes sense as Twitter is finding that many people simply visit Twitter.com user pages without even signing up or following people, which helps generate 400 million monthly unique users to Twitter.com. And some 40 percent of active users on Twitter don’t even Tweet every month and simply use it as a platform for reading.
Making Twitter as simple as possible to use — even for those with no interest in publishing themselves, Costolo said, is how Twitter will grow to its goal of being on 2 billion devices (it’s reached 5 percent of that goal now.)
As for an IPO, Costolo says Twitter just raised $400 million, leaving it with a “truckload of money in the bank” and that it’s committed to becoming a tech giant on its own terms.
“We want to be able to remain independent and not be beholden to the public market until we want to be,” Costolo said.
Which is another way of saying, Twitter has no intention of letting the bozos on Wall Street dictate its evolution — including the choice to let the world’s clowns tweet using any clown name that makes them happy.