The Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on foreign use of social media to influence US politics took place Wednesday morning with two of the big tech companies that senators wanted to hear from present — and one empty chair.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were in the room and testifying. Google had offered to send Kent Walker, its senior vice president of global affairs, but the committee declined, saying it wanted someone more senior. Google did not offer anyone. So next to Sandberg and Dorsey was an empty chair, with a placecard for Google.
ON TUESDAY, A trifecta of tech companies announced that they had thwarted what appear to be significant cyber attacks from Russia and Iran. First, Microsoft CEO Brad Smith announced that the company had caught another round of phishing attacks on political groups in the United States, which it attributed to the Russian hacking group Fancy Bear. Then it was Facebook’s turn. On a call with reporters, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company had shut down 652 pages, accounts, and groups affiliated primarily with Iran, though some had ties to Russia. Twitter almost instantly followed suit, saying it too had taken 284 accounts offline, which appeared to have originated in Iran.
Nothing feels better than blocking an obnoxious branded Twitter account — whether you’re doing it to spite Alex Jones, to protect yourself from insidious marketing, or some combination of the two.
Look at what’s happening on Twitter, for example. As we reported earlier this month, #GrabYourWallet co-founder Shannon Coulter recently put pressure on the platform to remove Jones by creating a list of Fortune 500 companies on Twitter that people can block in protest.
The number of people on Twitter fell during the three months ending in June as it worked to clean up the platform and comply with new privacy regulations.
The social network said Friday that it had 335 million monthly users around the world in the second quarter, down from 336 million users in the quarter prior. The number of users could also decline in the third quarter, Twitter warned.
The company attributed the dip in part to “decisions we have made to prioritize the health of the platform” and, to a lesser extent, complying with sweeping new data protection regulations in Europe.
The stock fell 15% in premarket trading Friday after the earnings results.
You can learn a lot about a public company by reading its risk factors.
These are the portions of companies’ financial filings that require them to put on a show of honesty and humility. Risk factors are the challenges a company sees for itself, the threats it believes could sink it.
Twitter lists more than 40 risk factors in its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Many of them are obvious challenges that apply to any company (currency fluctuations could hurt, taxes might go up, God forbid a natural disaster destroy our headquarters, etc.). So far, it has navigated those successfully enough. It’s on the risk factors unique to Twitter it has foundered.
Here are a dozen areas where Twitter has foreseen risks — but still failed to avoid them.
Twitter may have re-oriented itself and laid off part of its workforce to streamline its business, but it still doesn’t look like it is bringing in enough money to keep Wall Street happy.
Here is the biggest data point from the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report: according to the company, advertising revenue totaled $638 million, which was down slightly year-over-year. A reversal in its advertising growth is certainly not going to help Twitter’s case, which needs to be able to pitch itself to advertisers as a legitimate alternative to Facebook — and now Snap, which is expected to go public in March and already generated $400 million in 2016.
The iPad was a futuristic gadget when it debuted in April 2010, but the apps it presented offered a rather nostalgic revival of traditional media. Photos, graphics, magazines, and books optimized for its high-res screen featured a print-era visual polish that had been sorely missing from ad-crammed web pages and monochrome ebook readers.
One of the early hits was Flipboard, a graphical embodiment of social media that launched in July 2010. It turned Twitter and Facebook feeds into an online magazine by displaying the photos, articles, or other pages that people linked to. Previews of articles were laid out like items on a newspaper page; and flicking up on the screen triggered a visual effect that looked like flipping pages. Flipboard was among the top 10 iPad apps in its early days, according to rankings by AppAnnie. “It seemed to be a perfectly timed creature of the iPad age, of the tablet age,” says digital advertising consultant Ken Doctor, author of the book Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get.
As first announced back in October, Twitter is about to shut down its looping video app and social network, Vine. The company had originally implied it would pull the Vine app from the app stores, but later said it would transition it to a new, low-maintenance app called Vine Camera instead. Ahead of this, Vine’s website and app were updated to allow you to export your Vines for posterity, if you couldn’t bear to lose them.
Vines can be exported until some point today from the vine.co website, or from the iOS or Android application. The Vine website currently says you can download your Vines “only until January 17, when the apps become the Vine Camera,” but the mobile app’s banner says the app will actually be updated tomorrow.
In any event, you have only hours left to grab your Vines before they’re gone.
Twitter is cutting 9% of its workforce – about 350 jobs – after reporting a sharp slowdown in revenue growth.
In the three months to September, revenues rose 8% to $616m. That was better than forecast, but lower than the 20% rise in the previous quarter.
The number of average monthly active users rose 3% to 317 million.
Last month, Twitter hired bankers ahead of a possible sale, but bids from potential suitors such as Google and Salesforce failed to materialise.
Shares in Twitter fell 7% earlier this month after Salesforce – considered to be the most likely bidder – said it had walked away from talks.
Jack Dorsey, chief executive, said he saw a “significant opportunity to increase growth” as the company improved the platform.