Like all news organizations, we love Twitter. And like perhaps every entity interacting with this most informational of social networks, we're unsure of what, exactly, Twitter is.
In a recent interview with AllThingsD, CEO Dick Costolo told Kara Swisher about how Twitter sees itself.
"We're building this global town square," Costolo said during their onstage interview at last week's D11 conference. "It's public, it's real-time, it's conversational, and it's widely distributed."
Throughout the conversation, Costolo repeatedly emphasized how Twitter was a tool or a complement to other entities, whether television networks, advertisers, or people in the middle of a disaster, be it environmental or political.
For television, he says, Twitter is the second screen, the social soundtrack to the broadcast—like sitting next to the sportswriter while watching the game. For advertisers, Twitter is a way to to join a pre-existing conversation, rather than throwing an ad out there and trying to generate buzz. And in the case of disasters—Costolo mentions the Fukushima earthquake and the Boston bombing—Twitter enables the crowd to sort out what's real and what's rumor.
Because of this, he told Swisher, Twitter is also a complement to news organizations.
"We're the platform for global information distribution for the people, by the people," he said. "The news orgs are the curators, the editors, the analysts. They do that important work."
Costolo, who sold Feedburner to Google years earlier, shows that he has an aerial view of the ecosystem that has sprouted around Twitter. He's sensitive to the relationships Twitter has with other tech firms—like how they are talking to Facebook all the time about the work they can do together; like how Apple is a "mentor company"; like how they can partner with Google in some regards, like the launch of Glass, but are in competition with others.
In this way, Costolo's take on Twitter is Confucian: He has a vision for where Twitter will be in the world—as its "town square"—and he's intent on placing it there. Which is why, he says, they're not looking to add more to Twitter.
"We’re not trying to add new things into Twitter," he says. "My challenge is, how do you pull things out of it?"
Bottom Line: Whether startup or human, find where you'd like to fit in the world—and figure out how to get there.
[Image: Flickr user Nanny Snowflake]