Twitter Turns 5: Biz Stone & ?uestlove Q&A
Twitter Turns 5: Biz Stone & ?uestlove Q&A

Does Twitter have the responsibility to help users provide more context to their tweets?

Stone: Not everybody reads the terms of service when they sign up to a website. But if you look at ours, I helped write them. They're written in a very conversational tone, and anything that sounds lawyerish has a yellow box explaining what it means. Basically, it says once you send out a tweet, it goes everywhere. It goes on people's mobile phones, it goes on CNN. It goes everywhere. That's going to be on you. So if you don't like the sound of this, then don't use the service.

We have a responsibility that people understand it's a public medium. People are still learning what works, what doesn't. Can you pull off humor in 140 characters? Will people get the joke? My example is, if I tweet I'm at a restaurant, I've got to assume it's an invitation for anyone around to join me. So I wait until I leave. Those are the subtleties that society in general is learning to understand when it comes to the new transparent way that we go about our lives and communicating. There's a lot of value in openness, but we also have to learn how to temper that. Occasionally we're going to get burned, but that's how we learn.

?uestlove: Do you ever fear the idea that you might become the next Friendster?

Stone: The fear is not about someone else. The folks most likely to bring us down are ourselves. One of the things we lived through, which was terrible, was that we weren't able to keep up with growth throughout 2008 and 2009. We had a lot of downtime. That's the kind of stuff that ultimately will make you fail. We had a small team then-like, 50 employees-and we're past 350 now. We're finally able to get to that point where we're not shooting ourselves in the foot every day. When we worry, we worry about executing on our plans.

There are others that are doing similar work, and that's a good thing for society in general; to have a variety of people working on a variety of cool tools that allow people to express themselves. But the thing that's most important is that we do our job and support the growth. That's what brings a service down-not paying attention to what the users need and not running a quality service. For example, focusing on money too early as opposed to features and growth.

?uestlove: Will we ever be able to add a comment to a retweet?

Stone: That's part of a larger initiative. One hundred and forty characters is the basic mechanism that carries a tweet through the system. But there's all kinds of meta information that can be added that gets carried along with it. For example, is the tweet referencing a song? Should the song be displayed? There's a world down the line-we're not working on it this second-there's a lot of associated content with that very simple tweet . . . something you're using to read the tweets can unpack a world of information.