Dick Costolo was in full flow. The chief executive of Twitter – installed after a brief power struggle in the autumn of 2010 – was outlining his unifying vision for the company’s product at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. “Our mission,” he said, “is to instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most meaningful to them.”
As mission statements go, it is up there with Microsoft’s “PC on every desktop” and Google’s “organise all the world’s information and make it useful”. What Costolo did, in an impressive talk, was to pull out examples of how Twitter is used socially by everyone. He put up a picture of a sunset posted by a user who had added the comment “What a day … in more ways than one”. What does that mean? “Maybe a friend or loved one knows that there’s more meaning than that in it,” Costolo noted. The idea that tweets can carry more information that what is simply encoded in their 140 characters – that they have extra value to the user through their context – was powerfully made.