Twitter's not a social network?

At Mobilize conference, Twitter's vice president of engineering says: "We're not a social network. We're an information network." He also talks about the company's preparation for the influx of users who will come once Apple rolls out iOS 5.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read
Michael Abbott, vice president of engineering at Twitter, talks with Om Malik (left) at the Mobilize conference today. Rafe Needleman/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Speaking at the Mobilize conference here today, Michael Abbott, vice president of engineering at Twitter, laid out how the mobile service is adapting to newer mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. Abbott said that notification and discovery, thanks to the location awareness of today's devices, is increasingly important. He said that 45 percent of tweets now come from mobile devices.

For example, he said, if you're visiting San Francisco from New York, a stream of tweets about a local fire may be relevant to you while you're on that trip. Even if you don't follow the San Francisco Fire Department or a local emergency channel, Twitter, Abbott says, should know what's important to you and feed you that information.

"We're not a social network," Abbott said, "We're an information network."

Twitter is also working hard to make the Twitter experience consistent between all the devices and platforms that can use the service. He sees the Web itself as the third most important mobile platform for Twitter, after iOS and Android.

The company is gearing up for the large influx of users that will come after Apple rolls out iOS 5 (expected October 4). There should be no fail whales, Abbott says, despite the dramatic growth of the service: Twitter has 100 million active users, 82 percent growth from the start of the year. He said, "There have been more infrastructure changes at Twitter over the last nine months than in the previous five years."

And, of course, he's excited to see Twitter embedded in the phone. (A recent report from The Next Web said Twitter developer events scheduled for next month appear to center on integrating Twitter into Apple's iOS 5.) It should be good for apps developers, he says. "I'm excited to see what developers will do." For one, they'll be able to take advantage of Twitter as a sign-on service.

Comparing Twitter to Facebook, which "sucks in everything," according to Abbott's interviewer Om Malik, Abbot said Twitter will continue to focus on the simplified experience. "We're going to keep focusing on enabling users to grow and discover."

Abbott led the software and services team at Palm from 2008 to 2010 and had kind words for the WebOS team there. "The majority of WebOS was developed in a year," he said. He's still "hopeful" that the platform will survive despite the "disappointing" news that HP was giving up on it.