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Twitter co-founder riffs on Facebook, developers

Evan Williams, who stepped down as the company's CEO last months, says it was "kind of a sucky job." The company's relationships with both big partner brands and smaller developers remain complicated and difficult to wrangle.

SAN FRANCISCO--Twitter co-founder Evan Williams was the final speaker of the Web 2.0 Summit conference on Wednesday, with a slew of potential announcements anticipated like perhaps a massive new funding round or a formal roll out of the "analytics dashboard" product that it's had in the works for some time.

Not quite that exciting. Williams' only comment on the funding rumors was "we have a lot of money in the bank," and with regard to the supposed dashboard announcement, he said casually that an "analytics dashboard-y thing" was being used by "a very few users." There was some news on the search front; at last year's Web 2.0 Summit, Twitter had announced search deals with both Microsoft and Google, and on Wednesday Williams said that "what happened since is we've got way more demand." Consequently, Twitter had announced earlier in the day a partnership with third-party API provider Gnip to broker access to that "firehose."

The "promoted" tweets, accounts, and trending topics that Twitter launched this spring as an advertising-based revenue model are going well, Williams said. "The math looks good, and most of the advertisers are coming back and they're buying more," he explained without naming any numbers.

Twitter remains in negotiations with Facebook over the massive social network's ban on a way to find Twitter followers through Facebook. Williams says it's "frustrating," but that talks are ongoing with Facebook, which once offered to acquire Twitter in a stock deal that Twitter turned down.

Another complex relationship that Twitter has is with its community of developers. Over the past year, as Twitter has bolstered and revamped its products, it's began to build internal products that compete directly with some successful third-party applications. Williams said today that Twitter had been so resource-strapped that it couldn't build those new features itself, and that the prolific platform took it by surprise. "We spent very little time improving the product" in Twitter's early days, he admitted. "That's because we had to spend all our time scaling and ramping up our team and infrastructure...We've learned a lot about having an ecosystem, and working with third-party developers, and we've certainly screwed up a lot of that. And part of that is because we didn't set out to be a platform company."

He hinted that there additional internal products that Twitter has constructed and not yet released to the public--like a "reputation score" for each user, something very similar to the offering from a third-party company called Klout. So it's likely that these complications and conflicts with partners, clients, and competitors will continue to go on.

Much of this is no longer his direct problem. Williams stepped down as Twitter CEO last month in order for Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo to take over. "I had to think hard about taking the CEO role in the first place. For a long time I didn't think I wanted to be the CEO of a venture-funded company," Williams said of when he took over the CEO role in the first place when original CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down. "It's kind of a sucky job."