Twitter too complicated for newcomers, says CEO

Dick Costolo says that users of the information network have created their own "remarkable language" that's difficult for outsiders to understand.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
2 min read
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Asa Mathat/D: All Things Digital

Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo believes that the 7-year-old information network is still far too complex for the masses to grasp.

Wednesday, the CEO fielded questions from Kara Swisher at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. When asked what Twitter was missing, Costolo said, "Simplicity."

Twitter makes communication too complex.

The information network, because it constrains tweets to 140 characters or less, has inspired people to create a new type of language for conversations and memes, Costolo said. But this "remarkable language is superhard to understand" if you're new to the platform, he added, citing how members often place a "." in front of the "@" when tweeting replies that they want all their followers to see. Kind of confusing, right?

Costolo said that he urges his team to take risks and figure out ways to bridge the gap between the insiders who are versed in Twitter parlance and the newbies who aren't.

The Twitter chief was, of course, also peppered about his company's plans to go public, its relationship with Apple, Google, and Facebook, and its role in breaking-news situations like the Boston Marathon bombing.

On the IPO front, Costolo echoed remarksChairman Jack Dorsey made last month and downplayed the company's interest in going public. He also avoided specifics about the company's relationship with its Silicon Valley competitors, saying only that Twitter can cooperate with Google, talks regularly with Facebook, and views Apple as a mentor.

As for Twitter taking responsibility and vetting the information that flows through its network, that's just not going to happen, Costolo said. The information network is not a news organization and doesn't plan to act like one -- though the company does want to partner with more news outlets going forward.

"We are the platform for global information distribution," he said, meaning Twitter is for the people, by the people. The beauty of Twitter today is that when rumors surface -- like the inaccuracies that were perpetuated during the search for the marathon bombers -- the crowd does a very good job of quickly sorting out what's true and what's rumor, he insisted. I'm not sure everyone else would agree.