Twitter Just TKO'ed with

Twitter's on the warpath!

Twitter is on a warpath and the casualties are counting.

iPhone apps? Twitter bought the best one, Tweetie (and they recently released their own official apps for BlackBerry and Android).

URL shortening? Twitter gave rise to and now they just cemented its downfall.

A better web client and built-in picture support? The smart money says it’s coming, and Seesmic, TwitPic, and others should be scared.

Back in the Good Ol’ Days

TinyURL launched in 2002, but didn’t gain widespread appeal until Twitter adopted it as its official URL shortener. Back then (2006-2009ish), Twitter had nary a concern for money. They were focused on building the best service possible (or at least one that didn’t go down every other minute) and welcomed an ecosystem of outside apps and services built on top of the basic Twitter platform. This dichotomy worked out beautifully: Twitter wanted to grow and scale, and they basically got free outside help.

Back then, it was actually in Twitter’s own interest to avoid monetizing the service. As the anecdote goes, you don’t know what a company’s worth until it starts making money. That is, without ads or paid subscriptions, Twitter’s earning potential seems limitless. Seem counterintuitive? Perhaps at first. Basically, once a company starts making money, by implementing ads or charging for premium services, investors start realizing just how much — or how little — a company is truly capable of making. But until that point, everyone can still dream of fistfuls of cash just dropping from the sky.

However, the honeymoon can’t last forever. Now, with investors presumably breathing down their necks and Twitter becoming a true pop culture phenomenon (the Oprah moment!), Twitter needs to start figuring out how to pay off investors and become a financially successful company with plans for an IPO down the line.

In Pursuit of Money

Make no mistake, all of Twitter’s recent changes are a result of the company “growing up” and preparing to launch its advertising platform. Without controlling how the end-user views tweets, it becomes impossible to guarantee the wide dissemination of Twitter’s own advertising platform (that is, without hijacking the Twitter stream with spammy and unimaginative advertising tweets, now explicitly prohibited by Twitter’s recently revised Terms of Service).

Twitter bought Tweetie and rebranded it Twitter for iPhone because it was, by far, the best mobile client available. Creating its own app from scratch would’ve required significant effort and expenditure and many power users may have stuck with Tweetie anyways if they believed it to be better. By adopting the best client as its own, Twitter guaranteed widespread initial acceptance.

In contrast, picked up steam on its own, but only went mainstream after Twitter started using it as the default shortener on Power users liked it because it provided analytics and, more recently, branded URLs for its Pro service users (such as TechCrunch’s or the New York Times’ However, with Twitter’s impending shortening service, will lose its most valuable asset: prominent placement on

In short, URL shortening services went viral, but only because they helped users maximize the utility of Twitter’s infamous 140 characters limit. If Twitter now allows full URLs in tweets, why would anyone bother using a URL shortener?

Without Twitter, can a URL shortening service still be a viable (and profitable) company? If Facebook’s copy-rather-than-acquire precedent is any model, competing services are going to have a tough time.

Will Get Rocky Balboa’ed or Can It Bounce Back?

Now, the onus is on to innovate or die. They have already begun offering some premium services, but they need to go much farther.

I suspect they will need to shift some of their focus from their core business (short domains) to other ancillary services, like small landing pages for consumers or a full-fledged analytics service for microblogging services (like Tumblr and Posterous, in addition to Twitter).

Or they can just hope Google acquires them.

What do you think – can survive this onslaught from Twitter or are they just a feature, not a company?

[photo credit: flickr/mdverde]

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I'd Pay For a Hulu Subscription If…

Hulu logo

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Hulu, the premier online legal TV watching destination, will be launching a paid subscription version next month. Hulu Plus, as it will be called, will charge $9.95 monthly for access to the back catalog of some of the shows which they currently only have up to 5 episodes of. Would you pay for such a subscription service?

Despite being an avowed television and digital media aficionado, right now I would NOT pay for this type of plan. As it stands, access to a few more episodes from the current season of the shows they have available is simply not compelling enough for me to fork over $120 of my hard-earned money every year. However, what can Hulu do to get my money?

I’m glad you asked. I’d pay for a Hulu subscription if…

  1. HD Video

    Simply put, the paucity of HD shows on Hulu is maddening. They have a few in a special walled-off section of the site, but they’re one-off episodes, not for entire series (or even seasons of a show). In order for any paid subscription plan, Hulu simply must offer HD versions of their shows – 720p will suffice, but 1080p would be even better.

  2. Can I watch on my TV?

    Hulu, understandably, has tried to restrict companies like Boxee from being able to play its videos on TV-connected devices. This is primarily because Hulu is actually owned by the major broadcast networks (NBC, ABC, and Fox each have a 30% stake in the company). However, in order for any Hulu paid plan to have traction, consumers MUST be able to watch shows on their TV. Ideally, this would be through partnerships with companies like Microsoft and Apple, on the Xbox 360 and Apple TV and other such devices.

    The most important caveat is that rights holders (read: the networks and production companies) should not and can not be allowed to restrict their shows from being watched on TVs. When Amazon released the Kindle 2, they included a text-to-speech feature on all ebooks; however, after pressure from book publishers, they allowed this feature to be restricted on a per-book basis. For Hulu Plus to be successful, Hulu must not succumb to outside pressures as Amazon did.

  3. Access on more portable devices (Netflix model)

    Netflix has succeeded in the digital video space because of its ubiquitous access. Simply put, Hulu must follow Reed Hastings’ lead and do the same. As a consumer, I want to be able to start a television show on, continue watching it on my TV, and then finish it on an iPhone or iPad. Hulu Plus may find consumers willing to pay for access on their computers and televisions, but it won’t be a ball-out-of-the-park hit unless it is available on the products consumers are increasingly using: phones, tablets, and digital media players.

  4. More formats (Silverlight instead of Flash?)

    Many people are happy with I am not.

    Simply put, using Flash to display videos is a nice cross-platform solution (and easier for web developers), but it stutters like crazy on my Mac computer (and multiple underpowered Windows PCs I use from time to time). On the other hand, I have never run into these issues while watching an ‘Instant Streaming’ movie on Netflix. This is primarily because Netflix employs the competing Silverlight platform made by Microsoft. Silverlight is a newer technology and is optimized for streaming web video; Flash was never designed for this purpose and such features have essentially been hacked on in the aftermath of YouTube’s wild success.

    In an ideal world, Hulu Plus will support Silverlight instead of, or at least in addition to, Flash. A man can hope, right?

  5. Fewer commercials

    Internet users are trained early to expect websites to fall into one of two categories: advertising-supported or subscription-based. falls into the former; users watch one or two commercials every so often in exchange for freely watching television shows. However, in order to get consumers to pay up for Hulu Plus, there must be fewer commercials.

    Unlike many other people, I do not expect Hulu Plus to be completely devoid of advertising. As NBC CEO Jeff Zucker has said on behalf of the entire television industry, “We can’t trade analog dollars for digital pennies.” With Hulu Plus expected to be only $9.99 monthly, it will already arguably be a much better deal than cable or satellite — which the average household pays nearly $75 for, but still has plentiful commercials on almost every channel.

All in all, that’s what it’d take for me, seemingly the perfect target audience, to pay for Hulu Plus. What will it take for you to subscribe to Hulu Plus?

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The Setup: Stuff I Use

Note: Idea borrowed from Paul Stamatiou with permission.

This is a list of applications, products and services I personally use on a regular basis. I was not paid for placement of anything on this list, they’re all things I personally find useful. If you have any suggestions about applications, products or services to try out or replace what I’m currently using, I’d love to hear about it!

Computer Setup

  • Laptop: 13.3-inch unibody MacBook Pro (2.53GHz processor/4 GB RAM/250GB hard drive)
  • Monitor: BenQ 24″ LCD
  • Mouse: Logitech MX Revolution wireless mouse
  • Keyboard: Logitech Wave wireless keyboard
  • Speakers: Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX speakers
  • External Hard Drive: Seagate Freeagent (500GB)
  • Home Server: 4 terabyte custom-built Windows Home Server (4x1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 HDDs)


  • Cell Phone/DAP: iPhone 3GS (black 32GB)
  • Digital Camera: Canon EOS Rebel XS 10.1MP DSLR camera
  • eBook Reader: Amazon Kindle 2
  • Video Games: Xbox 360 Arcade (20GB hard drive)
  • Media Receiver: Apple TV (40GB)
  • Router: Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 802.11g wireless router
  • Optoma DV10 MovieTime DLP Projector With Built-In DVD Player
  • Original Xbox with XBMC


  • Email/Calendar: Google Apps for my domain
  • Telephone: Google Voice
  • Backup: Mozy
  • File Sync: Dropbox
  • Web Hosting: MediaTemple (gs)
  • Video Rental: Netflix


  • Web Browser: Firefox
  • RSS: Google Reader
  • Blogging: WordPress
  • Twitter: Tweetie
  • To-Do Lists: Things
  • FTP: Transmit
  • Web Development: Coda
  • Virtualization: VMware Fusion with Windows XP
  • Media Player: VLC Player
  • Office Suite: Microsoft Office 2008
  • Music: iTunes
  • Photos: iPhoto
  • Backup: Time Machine
  • Other: TextExpander
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