D7: The Twitter guys speak

Biz Stone and Evan Williams, the heads of the microblogging leader, kicked off this year's tech conference in Carlsbad.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
5 min read

Twitter's Evan Williams and Biz Stone (far right) on stage with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the opening keynote Tuesday of D: All Things Digital. Ina Fried/CNET

CARLSBAD, Calif.--The D7: All Things Digital opening night keynote, often reserved for tech legends like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, was handed over this year to the team behind Twitter. CNET News is offering live coverage, so check back for frequent updates.

6:37 p.m. PT: Rupert Murdoch takes the stage to kick things off.

6:40 p.m. PT: Singer Jill Sobule takes the stage with a song written for Rupert. Kara Swisher comes out to hold the lyrics.

"Rupert I met you last year at this conference," she sang. "Do you remember me. They took our picture. you gave me a warm hug. It was really disconcerting. I've never been a big fan."

6:47 p.m. PT: Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher take the stage.

They thank the audience. "We've decided to declare the end of Web 2.0 right here," Mossberg said, declaring the start of, you guessed it Web 3.0.

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher take the stage Tuesday at the D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif. Dan Farber/CNET

"We're that creative," Swisher chimed in.

6:50 p.m. PT: Now they are musing about the econolyse and plugging their iPhone app.

Now they are mocking their presenting companies with iPhone apps that they could benefit from.

"Trying to make money from an overvalued microblogging service," they said. "We've got an app for that," they added, showing a picture of the Twitter fail whale being harpooned with dollar signs.

They went on to mock Microsoft's search engine, Yahoo's occasionally foul-mouthed CEO and MySpace.

6:58 p.m. PT: As a prelude to the Twitter execs, Swisher interviewed her mom.

Do you Twitter, Swisher asked her mom. Why would I want to that, the elder Swisher said.

"Why would I want people to know what I am doing?" she said. "It's nobody's business."

"It's going to be sold for a zillion dollars," Swisher said.

"Lucky them," Swisher's mom said.

7:10 p.m. PT: Back up after some networking problems. To make a a long story short, Swisher and Mossberg have been hammering them on how many people regularly use Twitter as well as about their past company, which specialized in podcasting and got "crushed" by Apple, according to Mossberg and Swisher.

"Crushed, I don't know," Twitter co-founder Evan Williams said. "We took a different route."

7:13 p.m. PT: Another thing that was noted while my computer was misbehaving, Twitter has just 43 full-time workers. And even that is a big jump, Biz Stone noted.

"We've doubled since January," Williams said.

7:15 p.m. PT: With so many third-party applications for Twitter, Swisher asks them what pieces of technology they plan

Williams notes the company invested a year ago buying a search engine. "We plan to work on search a lot."

Mossberg asked if they plan to build their own clients, either for computers or phones.

"We're pretty device agnostic or interface agnostic," Williams said. "I don't think we should build a desktop client any time soon. We'll work on the Web site."

After avoiding it for nearly 15 minutes, Swisher has started to ask about a business model, which actually qualifies as admirable restraint in my book.

She asks if real-time search is the answer. Williams notes that Twitter is just doing search of Twitter itself, not the Web. "It's a completely different thing," he said. 7:18 p.m. PT: So advertising, is that the business model, Swisher asks.

They talk a bit about "opportunities for discovery," but don't really say anything new on revenue.

Mossberg said that the polling D did showed 30 percent of people would be willing to see banner advertising.

"I think its probably the least interesting thing we could do," Williams said, but added he said it probably wouldn't offend him as a user.

Williams spoke more positively about commercial accounts, but reiterated that the company has nothing to add that front.

7:22 p.m. PT: They are talking more about the possibilities for commercial accounts. After some debate, they settle on using Dunkin Donuts as an example.

The first thing Twitter could do, Williams said, is authenticate it really is Dunkin' Donuts. Doing that will require manpower on Twitter's part. "We'll probably want to charge money for that," Williams said.

Location-based information is another possibility, they said.

7:25 p.m. PT: Swisher asks them what it is like to be the hot company.

"That is not going to last," Stone said. "Pretty soon everyone is going to hate us...maybe by the time we are done speaking. The worst thing we could do is get all caught up in this."

Swisher asked about their talks with Facebook and other companies about selling the company. She noted that she has this thing about sustainable companies.

"I have a big thing about building sustainable companies too," Williams said.

Swisher: What if Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi or someone with Google came up and said "a billion dollars, here you are."

She pressed them on whether they, like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg have the ability to say no to such an offer. "It doesn't matter that much because the board and investors are feeling the same way we are," Williams said.

7:35 p.m. PT: What's the next big thing?

"We are not doing a TV show," Williams said, shooting down the rumor du jour. He said that people can build Twitter apps for TVs, much like they do for phones and computers. Or someone can have a TV show with Twitter feedback built-in.

The next big thing, Stone said is building the company, scaling it to become a larger company. 7:37 p.m. PT: They open it up for questions. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee offers a couple of comments. "Don't ever do another planned maintenance in the middle of the day on a week day."

He also suggested that they need to find a way to scale their business faster than they have been. "I can't believe that 45 people is the right number of people... I think that you've created the coolest thing in a long time."

7:44 p.m. PT: Back to business model stuff.

Stone said the greatest business model could be something that no one has thought of yet. he said that an important facet of the company is assuming it doesn't know where things might go.

That said, Williams said the company will try some revenue-producing ideas.

10:00 p.m. PT: I got a chance to interview Williams and Stone, after their chat. Click here to read about it or check out the video embedded below.

"We are going to start trying some stuff," he said.