Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, has given a lengthy interview to the BBC World Service, in which he claims that social media is fundamental to the spread of democracy. Or should that be the other way around? In the 30-minute program, which debuts tonight, he also touched on why he turned down an offer from Facebook, and why the company is focusing on money first of all. “Our goal at Twitter is to be a force for good,” he said, as he outlined plans for the Web site’s expansion throughout the world.
“We can’t change the world if we can’t pay for our servers and employees,” he said, while admitting that a scalable business model for Twitter was still very much a work in progress. “What we want to do is build something into the product that makes us money and makes the product better. And the more people that use Twitter, the more money we make, the better we can make Twitter.”
The company is trying to improve SMS coverage in India and Haiti, but Williams admits there is nothing he can do about his site’s being blocked by the Chinese authorities. “My hope is that eventually the open exchange of information will prevail in most regions, but we don’t have any specific plans in China or other areas where we’re blocked.”
Asked about his who his favorite celebrity tweeter was, Williams plumped for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “He’s using it to give these sort of inside peeks from the White House and behind the scenes. He’s definitely using it as part of their strategy and supporting Obama, so that seems important because it’s really changing the game there.
“I think Twitter will be a fundamental part of how people interact with their government. I think it will be how you get personal, customized information from every entity you care about, from your local café to your government, from your politician to your friends and family.”
When quizzed about the rumored half-billion offer from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, however, Williams turned coy. “Most of the biggest and most interesting services are independent. I believe that companies that are independent are more competitive, ultimately. What we’re working on is technology that has the power to change things, and that’s very, very exciting and motivating.”
The Interview is due to be broadcast at 6.30 p.m. EST this evening, and will be available as a podcast here.
[Via BBC News]