Google's Schmidt Talks Twitter, Microblogging Prospects in 2009

Google CEO Eric Schmidt took a few moments during the company's April 16 earnings call to discuss Twitter, the popular microblogging site that was the subject of Google acquisition rumors earlier in the month. Schmidt sees the real-time update model as viable for monetization.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussed Twitter during the search engine giant's April 16 earnings call. The popular microblogging site, which lets users post 140-character "tweets" about their status in real time, was rumored to be in Google's acquisition crosshairs earlier this month.

"I think Twitter proves that innovation is alive and well in Silicon Valley, and it's really come on board very strong in the last year," said Schmidt. "It is an incredibly useful thing."

The question about Twitter directed toward Schmidt did not touch on the acquisition rumors, and nor did Schmidt volunteer information about any talks that may have transpired.

Beyond its usefulness to the general public and the enterprise, Twitter has been exploring how to effectively monetize itself, an increasingly looming question for a number of social networking sites looking to justify the enormous amounts of money their investors have devoted to their development.
"The question here is, How could you make some money at that?" said Schmidt. "You can imagine that to the degree that [Twitter and similar sites] become successful, and obviously Twitter is already doing so, it could be [as] a channel for product information, marketing information, real-time information, for which you can hang advertising products, whether it's a text ad or video ad or so forth, off of it."

According to research firm ComScore, Twitter grew 131 percent in March 2009, with 9.3 million visitors-nearly double February's number of 4.3 million.

Twitter has been adding new features on top of its microblogging application, including a newly integrated search bar that shows what sort of online traffic a particular topic is generating. This expansion into search came weeks before rumors started in April 2009 that Google was in talks to acquire the site.

Responding to those takeover rumors, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said that his company chooses to remain "independent," although he acknowledged that talks had occurred with other organizations "on a variety of subjects."
Twitter has already begun steps to more effectively monetize itself, beginning with the addition of sponsored sites such as ExecTweets, which aggregates the collected tweets of several prominent business executives. Microsoft is the site sponsor.

Twitter also plans to start paid commercial accounts at some point in 2009.

The site also attracted some unwanted publicity when the "StalkDaily" worm hijacked user accounts and disseminated a spam message reading "Mikeyy" through the site network. Twitter security teams managed to suppress that infection, which began over a weekend, by April 13 and initiated four waves of attacks. A bored 17-year-old took responsibility for creating the worm.