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Be cautious of message, not tools

newsmaker Twitter co-founder Biz Stone shares how the micro-blogging site is attracting commercial usage from the likes of Dell.
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Written by Natasha Lomas on

newsmaker Biz Stone is one of the three founding fathers of microblogging service Twitter, along with Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams.

Stone has also helped develop various other Web properties, including spending time working for Google on Blogger, online audio and video search service Odeo and blog community site Xanga.

No surprise then that Stone is a very busy man indeed these days, combining being a web 2.0 entrepreneur with his ongoing Twitter duties and updating a swathe of blogs and social networking sites--one of his recent Tweets reads: one of the startups I work with just changed a meeting location from the W hotel to Chevy's Fresh Mex--economic downturn?.

ZDNet Asia's sister site Silicon.com caught up with Stone recently to ask what the enterprise was doing with Twitter, how he sees the service evolving and whether spam is inevitable.

Q: Which of the three founding fathers really came up with the idea for Twitter? And what inspired it?
Stone: Jack Dorsey was inspired by the away messages in IM applications like AIM. At a glance he could see which of his friends were, "too busy to chat", "in a meeting", "out for tea" etc. We took that idea and made it more mobile and more social.

What--in your opinion--is microblogging for? And how do you see it/your service evolving?
Microblogging is a term that describes a use case for Twitter--there are some folks who use it for tiny blog posts. Twitter is a real-time short messaging service used to co-ordinate during natural disasters; arrange a spontaneous meet-up among friends; or to share information during an event. Going forward, Twitter's network will grow worldwide and it will become increasingly agnostic with regard to how it is accessed.

Globally, how many people use Twitter? Was it the first ever microblogging service?
We don't share numbers like registered users. Twitter was unique when we built it in March 2006.

How are businesses using Twitter? How will microblogging change the way people work and do business?
We're seeing a lot of commercial usage of Twitter from companies like Dell, JetBlue, Comcast, and Whole Foods as well as organizations like Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), LAFD (Los Angeles Fire Department), The Red Cross and media companies like CNN and The New York Times. Companies like Comcast are using Twitter in a hybrid way--for both marketing and customer support.

Some people dismiss microblogging as a waste of time. Why are they wrong?
Communicating and connecting with other people is important for personal and professional success. Twitter is the pulse of what is happening with the people, organizations, and events you care about--delivered immediately, wherever you are. That shouldn't be dismissed.

There are a lot of other microblogging services around these days--yet Twitter remains the most high profile, the de facto standard. Why?
When the people and organizations you care about are using Twitter, it's more likely you'll use it too. Our open APIs also create a compelling reason for both developers and users to interact with Twitter.

Some high profile politicians are keen embracers of microblogging (and other Web 2.0 apparatus). Should we be suspicious?
Rarely would I advise anyone to be suspicious--you can be cautious of the message but not suspicious of the tools.

Do you believe Web services such as Webmail, microblogging, photo sharing and broader social networking websites can happily coexist--or is some kind of merging into a multi-services-platform inevitable?
We're evolving how we communicate as a species and that's bigger than technology iterations or branding. It's likely that all these services coexist and work together.

Is spam inevitable--and will it ever end?
Spam is part of this ecosystem and it needs to be dealt with but it will never go away and it will always evolve.

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