Two Deals Hint at Revenue for Twitter

Miguel Helft and Claire Cain Miller|The New York Times

Twitter gets 55 million monthly visitors, it has raised $155 million in venture capital, and it has generated intense interest from Hollywood to Iran. But it hasn’t earned much revenue and certainly no profit.

Back-to-back deals on Wednesday to make the company’s steady stream of posts available to Microsoft and Google’s search engines may point to a potential new source of cash. How large, however, is not known. The terms of the deals were not disclosed and Evan Williams, Twitter’s chief executive, said in an interview that revenue was “not the focus of the deals.”

Microsoft said it did not plan to put ads on its Twitter search service for now, and Google said ads might appear at a later date.


The deals represent the latest evidence of the intense interest in what is known as the real-time Web — the constant stream of posts and updates on Twitter, Facebook and similar services. Unlike traditional Web pages and blogs, that real-time information has not been easily integrated by search engines.

Microsoft has already included Twitter data in a service of its search engine, Bing. It demonstrated the service at Web 2.0, a technology conference in San Francisco. Google said that it would offer a similar feature soon.

The deals are not exclusive and fit into Twitter’s approach to doing business, Mr. Williams said. He raised the possibility of reaching similar agreements with other companies.

“A core of our philosophy has always been that Twitter is a distributed network and there’s multiple in points and out points that serve different users and different uses,” Mr. Williams said.

Unlike most Web companies, which seek to drive users to their Web sites, Twitter has said it does not care whether users see it through third-party applications on phones or computers or through sites like Bing.

“It’s ‘let a thousand flowers bloom,’ ” Mr. Williams said. “Other folks will attack the problem differently and present it in a different context that makes sense for different use cases.”

On Wednesday, Microsoft also said that it had reached a separate agreement to soon include status updates from Facebook in Bing, but it gave few details of what that service would look like.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said that only status updates that were public would be shared with Microsoft.

Several search startups, including Twitter itself, have search services tailored to uncover Twitter posts and other “real-time” data. But none has yet figured out how to mine the most relevant results in the way companies like Google have for Web search, Mr. Williams said.

Twitter has experimented with one way to do it, showing users which topics people are most actively talking about on the site.

Bing will experiment with different approaches to show users the most relevant results by filtering out duplicates and trying to rank posts in order of importance based on who their authors are and other factors.


“We are bringing you the best of real time right into the Web results,” said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for Microsoft’s online audience business group, who demonstrated the service at the conference.

For now, Bing users interested in searching Twitter will use a separate service, at Eventually, the company plans to further integrate Twitter search into Bing.

Google plans to offer a dedicated service to search Twitter and to blend Twitter posts into its main search results.

Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for search and user experience, said that access to Twitter’s trove of real-time data would “improve our relevance, our comprehensiveness and our quality.”

Brad Stone contributed reporting.