Twitter expects incredible growth with iOS 5 integration

Twitter has already grown more in the last nine months than it has in the last five years. But expect even more exponential growth soon thanks to the upcoming iOS 5 integration.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Twitter already sees an average of roughly four billion SMS messages produced each month now. The micro-blogging site sees more and more production on the mobile side these days.

But this could be just the beginning.

Integration with Apple and iOS 5 on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch will also drive a lot more Tweet production on mobile, said Michael Abbott, vice president of engineering at Twitter, while speaking at GigaOM's Mobilize 2011 summit in San Francisco on Tuesday.

"I'm really excited to see what developers do with that integration," Abbott added, explaining that beyond that it's going to ultimately result in more tweets and a better user experience.

The key for Twitter is to keep the user experience as unified as possible across multiple platforms, whether it be the desktop browser, mobile browser, Android or iOS apps, or integration in other programs.

With 100 million active users to date, Abbott noted that Twitter has had a growth rate of 82 percent since the beginning of the year.

To compensate for the rapid user expansion and production rates, Abbott explained that Twitter has seen more infrastructure changes in the last nine months than in the last five years of the company to be able to handle major, traffic heavy events such as the death of Bin Laden or even celebrity pregnancy announcements so users don't encounter the dreaded "fail whale."

Additionally, Abbott reiterated that Twitter is developing interaction models that are focused on enabling and surfacing tweets that might be relevant to a particular user. It's one thing to click on hashtags, but it's another for Twitter to curate tweets based on a unique profile.

This comes in handy with mobile, which could make use of the smartphone or tablet's GPS functions.

Abbott offered the example of following something to the effect of following something like a local fire department. A resident of that city might be following the local fire department, but a tourist visiting probably isn't. However, news of a fire might still be relevant to them. Thus, Twitter is working on ways to try to bring this information to the user more easily.

"I appreciate information coming to me rather than having to go find it," Abbott said.

It could be features like this that separate Twitter from the competition. However, Abbott tried to bridge a distance between Twitter and Facebook, among others, explaining that there really is a difference between the two.

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

Shifting topics, Abbott also briefly discussed his experience with webOS, as he led the software and service team at Palm that designed webOS from 2008 to 2010.

"It's disappointing to see some of the changes," Abbott said, "What remains to be seen is what they're going to do with the software." 

Abbott remarked that the team did a remarkable job of what they accomplished with the OS in such a short time, citing that notifications and multi-tasking on webOS were particularly novel features.

As the majority of webOS was developed within a year, Abbott argued that having a smaller team can enable developers to produce more innovations for their companies.

"At the same time, when you develop both software and hardware, it's important that it's all done in concert," he added.

When GigaOM's founder Om Malik asked who should buy webOS, Abbott laughed briefly but left without an answer. 

"The landscape is changing so dramatically in that space," he said, "It's hard to say."

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