Twitter working with operators on SMS short codes

CEO Dick Costolo said it will allow people access to Twitter if the service is blocked

Twitter is working with operators in the Middle East to make it easier for users to send Twitter messages using SMS (Short Message Service) short codes, after blockages in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt, said CEO Dick Costolo.

Although Twitter was temporarily blocked in Tunisia and remains blocked in other places such as China, "people will always find a way to communicate," said Costolo, speaking to a packed auditorium at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"We are working with carriers and regional OEMs to try and do things like allow short codes," Costolo said.

Costolo announced that Twitter is working on a crowdsourced translation service, starting with the Russian, Indonesian and Turkish languages.

While Twitter isn't compatible with languages that read from right to left, such as Arabic, Costolo said, "We need to do that." Later in the year, Costolo said Twitter will accommodate Portuguese.

Twitter is seeing strong use on mobile platforms: Some 40 percent of all tweets are sent from mobile devices, Costolo said. But many of those platforms and devices provide different user interfaces, which require people to figure out how to use it again.

"Right now those experiences are dissimilar and I have to relearn Twitter again," Costolo said. "The experience has to be the same. I shouldn't have to think to use Twitter. "

Other goals in the coming year for Twitter include more single-sign-on options and deeper integration with applications. People should be able to tweet directly from within an application, rather than having to leave the application.

"All we need to do is simplify the service," Costolo said.

That also applies to photos. The Android operating system allows people to tweet photos after one is taken, Costolo said.

On business issues, Costolo said Twitter is seeing businesses such as the U.S. cable provider Comcast use the service as a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. The carmaker Audi also included a hash tag for tweets in a commercial aired during the Super Bowl inviting people to participate in a contest.

Many of those interactions are occurring without assistance from Twitter, which Costolo hinted holds commercial promise. "Imagine what will happen," he said.

Twitter's market capitalization has been estimated to be up to US$8 billion, although the 350-person company only has three products: paid-for "promoted" tweets, promoted accounts and Trends, which lets companies buy slots on lists.

Twitter products are "working quite well," Costolo said.

Rumors have abounded this month that Facebook and Google were interested in buying Twitter, but Costolo dismissed the talk during the question-and-answer session.

"I don't know where these things come from," he said. "It's just a rumor."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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