Twitter To Take More Control Over Link Shortening

Twitter Addiction

Twitter will soon automatically shorten all links shared on its service—a move that may once again pit it against startups that have built their business around the site. The company says in a blog post that beginning this summer “all links on or third-party apps will be wrapped with a URL.” One of several reasons Twitter gives for the decision: “If you want to share a link through Twitter, there currently isn’t a way to automatically shorten it and we want to fix this. It should be easy for people to share shortened links from the Tweet box on”

True, although Twitter clients—like TweetDeck—have made it incredibly easy to shorten URLs using services like and tinyurl, and Twitter’s move may now put the future of those services into question. Twitter says people will still be able to use their existing link shorteners—although it will “wrap” those links with its own. Other short URLs—or at least the links they are shortening—might also still show up since Twitter says its current plan is to downplay the “ URL” and instead “display links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened links and lets you know where a link will take you.” (Think Google’s or Facebook’s

By taking more control over the link shortening process, Twitter says it will also be able to protect users from “malicious content” and also be able to improve its fledgling ad platform, which will take into account how users engage with Tweets by advertisers to determine how often the ads show up. Twitter says that the data that comes from shortening URLs will be useful for that—and that it might also provide some other services based on it.

The move comes as Twitter has expanded into other areas it previously left to other startups. For instance, in April it acquired popular Twitter iPhone client Tweetie and said it would relaunch it as its official iPhone app and it has also banned third-party ad networks from its site. Twitter has defended all of those decisions by saying they’re necessary to better serve users.

Twitter's Kevin Thau will be appearing at our next conference, paidContent 2010 Mobile: Leveraging the Smartphone Boom, July 20 in New York City. You can find out more about the agenda and register at


Twitter Seeks to Hire White House Liaison

President Obama’s administration is already known for being tech-savvy — with its heavy use of social media trinity of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Now, the White House is going even further and hiring a Twitter liaison to help policymakers “to tweet more effectively.”

The social media company is looking for a person to be the “closest point of contact with a variety of important people and organizations looking to get the most out of Twitter on both strategic and highly tactical levels”, according to the job listing.

As the Daily Telegraph points out, the job listing interestingly refers to Twitter as a “very small company.” The liaison’s job would be to “better serve candidates and policymakers across party and geographical lines” and “support policymakers use of Twitter to help them communicate and interact with their constituents and the world.”

Leena Rao, a writer for TechCrunch said the move is logical:

“As more politicians flock to the microblogging network to engage with citizens, it makes sense for the company to have an evangelist to help aid this process And its doesn’t hurt to have a representative serving Twitter’s policy interests in the area [Washington, D.C.] as well.”

Twitter’s policy interests? This should be interesting.

Blago: To Tweet Or Not To… Oh, Well, Actually You Don’t Get a Choice, Sorry

On Monday, newly minted Twitterer and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich announced that he planned to live-tweet his federal corruption trial, which got underway this past week. Alas, yesterday, with Blagojevich only one tweet into his trial-cum-new-media-adventure, the judge (who is clearly not sympathetic to the needs of the blogosphere) banned him from tweeting in the courtroom.

Reportedly, his publicist has actually been doing most of the tweeting. Oh, the wasted opportunity. After being chastise by the judge, Blagojevich began tweeting today about the less unique aspects of his life, namely his daughter’s eight-grade graduation.

That said, it’s worth noting that Blagojevich’s short-lived, live-tweeting experiment is only one of many recent endeavors by politicians to demonstrate technological savvy and capitalize on the campaigning capabilities of the new media. In April, the House Republican caucus launched its New Media Challenge designed to encourage party members to expand their online presence. The winner, Rep. John Fleming, was announced today. (He won and iPod, if you’re curious). Not to be outdone, the House Democrats devised a similar contest, The Member Online All-Star Competition, which began this week. The Democrats have a lot of ground to make up, however. The Hill notes that as of last week, well over half the Republican caucus uses Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, while well under fifty percent of the Democrats make use of the same sites.

One Republican in particular, Rep. Paul Broun (R. Ga.), seems to have the tweeting business under his fingers. Broun live-tweeted throughout President Obama’s speech yesterday, challenging the president’s assertions concerning the coming benefits of the health care reforms:

Donut hole will not be gone. Starting in 2011 the rebate will be replaced by a discount that never completely covers costs. #tcot

Obama just admitted that closing the donut hole will blow a hole in the budget.

Granted, Broun’s live-tweeting consisted of only a handful of posts, but it’s still a better effort than the singular Blagojevich tweet. We’ll just have to hope that however this trial turns out Blago will be quick to regain his tweetdom.

Rick Sanchez Corrects President Obama’s Twitter Spelling

Earlier today we wrote about the Jon Stewart’s aggressive critique of President Obama’s “complicated” response to the BP oil spill, and now we have another news anchor pointing out a presidential error. Though this time it’s CNN’s Rick Sanchez who corrected a misspelled word on the Presidential Twitter feed. Okay – maybe there is nothing similar about the two examples but its an odd video clip nonetheless.

Jack Dorsey Debuts @Square Mobile Payment Device in D.C.

On Tuesday evening Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey attended a fundraising reception for Missouri Congressional Candidate Tommy Sowers to officially debut his latest invention, Square which currently allows anyone with an Iphone, Android or laptop to send or accept payments for just about anything. Mobile credit card readers are not new. However what sets Square apart from the competition is:

  1. Compact size- About the size of your thumb, or 1.5” long, 1” deep and 3.5” tall   
  2. Electronic Receipts with Location. After a purchase you immediately get an email receipt for what you bought and where you bought it.
  3. Square is free. No additional hardware, applications or monthly service fees.
  4. Low transaction cost. Square charges 2.75% + 15¢ for swiped transactions. (Paypal is 2.9% +.30 cents for transactions under $3,000.)

In terms of Jack’s inspiration for Square, (as well as Twitter) I highly recommend watching his June 2nd speech to the 99% Conference . A few highlights:

  • “Payments, and the exchange of money is inherently social, it is another form of communication- So why isn’t it designed and treated as such. That was one of the reasons we started Square.”
  • The financial crisis created the opening for Square: “The situation allowed us to quickly seek out all the people we needed to talk to, at the banks, at the government, the card brands.  Everyone in the financial world was suddenly in survival mode, looking for innovation, looking for new things, looking for new business models.”
  • “90% of the country paying with plastic card of some sort, but only 2% of the country can accept payments with those cards. So what if we turn on the other side, what happens and what does that interface look like”
  • For Twitter: The @ symbol, ‘RT’ for re-tweets, # for hash tags and even the word ‘tweet’ were developed by the Twitter community, and initially resisted by Twitter.

In terms of the politics of the event, although announcing and presenting Square at last week’s Personal Democracy Forum would have been a larger, bi-partisan audience, when I asked Jack why he chose the Sowers event, his reply was essentially that while the Sowers fundraiser was a partisan event, that Square as a device and Twitter as a platform are available to the same degree to all sides equally. Secondly and more importantly though, he was impressed with the Sower’s campaign utilization of social media tools and that they were the first ones to reach out and ask for his help on the event. Also, being from St. Louis, he has a personal interest in Missouri’s representation. Furthermore,  not only does just about every senior staffer on the Sowers campaign maintain and use Twitter accounts , as far as I can recall I have never seen a political email written in Twitter speak that explicitly asks the reader:

Even if you can't make it, can you help make noise about this on twitter?  We want all of DC talking about this for weeks to come.

If you could tweet something like: "Please RT: @sowers and @jack at #sqdc TONIGHT, this is not an event to miss!"

Be sure to use the event hashtag #sqdc.

More pictures bellow the jump:

square2 We just got our Squares at the @sowers @jack #sqdc event!


Chinese Government Increasing Internet Accessibility, Still Muffling Tweets

According to AP reporter Scott McDonald, China plans to bridge the “digital gap” between developed and rural areas of the country over the next five years, increasing the percentage of Chinese web users from 29 to 45 percent. What these people will do with Internet access is still questionable, however, as they probably still won’t be able to tweet about their day, tag a picture of their embarrassingly drunk friends on Facebook, or waste 8 minutes and 43 seconds watching Lady Gaga’s new video on YouTube – three things that are making the Internet awesome today.

That’s because, despite the push to make the Internet more accessible, the Chinese government will continue to block access to websites like these in an effort to maintain their kibosh on anything that might pose a threat to “national unity.”

Three months after Google China relocated from the mainland to Hong Kong in a messy breakup about censorship, Chinese officials released a new report today on the country’s Internet policy. Other than laying out the plan to increase the amount of Internet users, the paper reinforced the government’s right to censorship while still claiming that China is all for freedom of speech on the web.

Though the report praises microblogging as a quality means of Internet expression (there are 220 million bloggers in China, after all), it still states that sensitive content is free to be blocked, and one would assume the average twentysomething’s Facebook profile would be put on that list.

The people of rural China might not be dying to send out hourly tweets, but with backlash over the strict Internet policy heating up, the recently refortified Great Firewall of China is likely to face some opposition.

Twitter Enters the Beltway: Social Media and Lobbying

Everywhere you look these days, you find the seemingly exponential growth of Twitter . After dominating the world of upcoming social media lately, Twitter is now looking to gain a powerful foothold outside of Silicon Valley. The company posted yesterday an opening for a "Government Liaison" in Washington D.C. Twitter says they are trying to make their product more effective for "policymakers, political organizations, and government officials and agencies." The listing notes that they are building a "public policy department" to influence lawmakers to support Twitter's policy needs with patent law, net neutrality, consumer privacy and more unforeseen issues.

Twitter is by no means the first social media company to try and conquer Capitol Hill.  Facebook has been heavily invested in lobbying for several causes in recent years. In June 2009, Facebook hired notable former ACLU senior counsel Timothy Sparapani to head their lobbying division in Washington and advocate for them to Congress. Facebook is the leader in confronting regulation of internet companies that collect, store and use people's personal data. Only eight months after they added a dedicated lobbyist, Facebook expanded their Washington division twice over, adding a "public policy manager" and "public policy associate" to the team.

However, when it comes to tech companies staking their claim to Washington, Google, as always, is the biggest kid on the block . Spending $1.38 million in the first quarter of 2010 alone on lobbying, Google has shown that they are willing to do what it takes to make the changes they want in Washington. John Simpson, from Consumer Watchdog, told Investor's Business Daily that Google is "one of the biggest high-rollers as far as lobbying goes". Still, they are up against even heavier hitters in the fight for net neutrality and privacy issues: main opponent AT&T spent a total of  $14.7 million in 2010, mostly in direct opposition to Google's efforts.

Another important player in the Washington tech-lobbying scene is Research In Motion , the Canadian telecommunications firm that manufacture the most necessary Washington accessory-the Blackberry. After paying out a $612 million settlement from a patent lawsuit in 2006, Research In Motion has stepped up it's lobbying efforts, doubling the size of their Washington team in 2009 and spending $675,000 in the first quarter of 2010, up from their fourth-quarter total of $545,000 last year. Most of this money has gone towards further patent disputes, and, according to the Associated Press , "legislation on an inventory of U.S. radio spectrum" and  "the trade of minerals from conflict-ridden countries like the Congo" which are used in their electronics.

Twitter has now entered the political spectrum, so we can most likely see more tweets sent from the halls of power in our Nation's Capital. However, their added presence to the already exploding field of tech lobbying may be a drop in the bucket compared to the efforts of huge multinational corporations who already have their pockets open in Washington.