Twitter chief tells Murdoch: Paywall will not work

The co-founder of Twitter on Thursday warned Rupert Murdoch that his plans to charge for online content, and block Google from using stories produced by his News International titles, were a vain attempt to “put the genie back in the bottle”.

In recent weeks Murdoch has launched a vitriolic attack on Google and other web companies, accusing them of “stealing” content created by his titles, including the Times and the Sun. Management at News International is working on plans to introduce an online paywall next spring and prevent stories from being linked to by sites such as Google News.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone warned that Murdoch “should be looking at it as an opportunity to do something radically different and find out how to make a ton of money out of being radically open rather than some money by being ridiculously closed”.

Speaking at an event organised by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) in London, Stone added that the speed of change on the internet meant Murdoch’s plan was likely to “fail fast”. He was joined in his attack by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of networking site LinkedIn, who added: “I am sure that during the transition from horses to automobiles there were some people bemoaning the loss of horse transport.”

In contrast, Stone said Twitter’s future lay in making more of the service available to application developers and other partners so they could build on the stream of “tweets” created by its users. The social networking site’s users post more than 500 messages per second. The service is increasingly being used by news organisations as a way of discovering breaking news.

“I don’t know what the future of traditional media is,” said Stone. “But from my perspective and Twitter’s perspective I think there is a wonderful cooperative alliance there in terms of the wisdom of crowds, and as we add things to Twitter … maybe we can help.”

Twitter, which was valued at more than $1-billion just over a month ago, is looking to drive revenues and eventually start making a profit.

It plans to introduce some new features over the coming months. Stone, who set up the company just two years ago, said that by the end of the year it would have begun to offer its corporate users a suite of new analytical tools to help them use Twitter to keep in touch with customers and keep an eye on their brands. An increasing number of corporations, from cellphone companies to airlines, have added Twitter as a means by which customers can get in touch.

Twitter is also considering giving its users reputation scores, which would help traditional news organisations using the social networking service to spot breaking news stories.

Twitter recently announced search deals with both Google and Microsoft’s Bing and the deals added fuel to recent speculation that the micro-blogging site might be a takeover target for either business.

But Stone emphasised a sale was not on the cards: “That was never something we were interested in talking about”.

Instead, the company was interested in doing more partnership deals. “One of the things we are seeking to do as we have already done with Myspace as we have done with LinkedIn, as we have done with AOL, as we have done with Google, as we have done with Bing, is to share our data and form partnerships that are long standing … Twitter wants to work with social networks, with mobile networks, with TV networks with search engines … we want to put a little Twitter in everything.” – guardian.co.uk

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