Twitter CEO Dick Costolo: We Are the 'Global Town Square'

The company has massive global goals: 'We have an obligation to reach every person on the planet.'

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo discusses how the service plans to evolve in the future.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo discusses how the service plans to evolve in the future.

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After a rapid ascent into the public hivemind since its inception in 2006, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo may have finally found the perfect way to describe the platform.

"We think of [Twitter] as the 'global town square," Costolo said. "This notion of a very public, live, in-the-moment conversational platform."

Costolo spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, talking about how Twitter has revolutionized everything from government to entertainment and how the service plans to evolve in the future.

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Following a greater Internet trend, Twitter's future looks to be rooted in mobile usage. In February, the company released figures saying 60 percent of its 200 million users log in via a mobile device at least once a month. The company's findings also said that users who visit Twitter via a mobile device are way more likely to engage with content and other users than those who use the service via desktop.

"The fascinating thing about mobile users is that they do everything more - favorite things more, retweet more, reply more, etc., so I think that this migration to mobile very much favors services like Twitter," Costolo said.

He says that Twitter is working on "lots of ways" to enhance this "global town square" experience, including a possible DVR-like feature during planned events.

"We need to be able to maintain that 'roar of the crowd' on the platform," he said. "That ability to track and monitor the moments within an event, either as they happen or as we catch up with them, is something we want to enhance."

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While Costolo helps Twitter tweak its product as it continues its rapid growth, he made it clear that the company won't rest until everyone is part of the "Twitterverse."

"Once you are a core user of Twitter, it becomes increasingly indispensable to you," he said. "We have every belief inside the company that we have an obligation to reach every person on the planet."

Here are highlights from other subjects Costolo touched upon during his interview:


"We've been very clear about a principled policy around access to user data. When we receive a valid, legal request in the countries in which we operate, we will abide by the rule of law. Other requests that may be more broad in scope, and not specific legal requests that don't meet our principle of being a valid legal request, we will push back on."

On Global Transparency:

"Initially, we were maybe a bit too parochial in the way we approached [our international policy], taking our local headquarter office perspective and saying 'We'll just do they same thing we do here,' and obviously we've had to realize that wasn't necessarily the right way to deal with things internationally."

"Transparency goes a long way towards helping people have context for what exactly is going on. I think there are ways to be transparent about the requests that are being made without harming needs of the intelligence organizations."

On Privacy:

"This is a constantly evolving thing, especially with rapid migration to mobile. I think its going to start to have to evolve very, very quickly as these capabilities become ubiquitous and everybody – from your 7-year-old to whoever is walking around – is broadcasting a location. The discussion will need to catch up to this very quickly, but I think it will continue to evolve. We'll see more of it, not less of it."

On the Supreme Court's Prop 8 Decision:

"We've been very supportive of these progressive policies in the state of California."

On Cyberbullying:

"We have to do a better job on the reply stream of filtering out what are obviously egregious and repeated harassment. We've been working on that for a little while, we've tried several things, it's definitely something we continue to invest in and I continue to pay personal attention to."

On Vine vs. Instagram:

"People can do whatever they want to do. We have a very specific notion of where we want to go. I think it's so much more important to understand the competitive landscape in the context of where you want to go, but not let whatthose guys are doing drive what you are going to do. If we do what we want to do, or go where we want to go, we'll be fine."