Twitter co-founder Evan Williams is getting frustrated with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Williams (shown) sat for the final interview session at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday. When asked why Twitter has not been able to fully integrate its product with Facebook, Williams said, “You’d have to ask Mark that. Mister Opportunity.” Currently, users can import Tweets into Facebook, but it doesn’t work the other way around.
Conference host John Battelle asked Williams whether that situation frustrated him. “Sure,” said Williams. “We’d like our users to be able to tap into Facebook…I understand their position. They see their social graph as their core asset. We’re talking to them often, [and] neither side has found a way to do that.”
On the other hand, Williams would appear to have little to complain about, given that, by his account, Twitter’s recently introduced ad products (like Promoted Tweets) are selling like gangbusters. “Our biggest challenge is [that] there is way too much demand for the supply,” said Williams. Twitter is currently running campaigns with 40 advertisers and should be working with 100 by year’s end.
“The math looks good,” he said. “Most advertisers are coming back and want to buy more. We’re optimistic…we know we are also at the very beginning. There’s a million ways to make money on Twitter, and we’ll probably try to make more.”
Williams was just one of several headliners to appear during the final day at Web 2.0. Another highlight was a conversation with Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. One of the things that could be gleaned from that interview: don’t expect the FCC to take up the online privacy battle anytime soon. That’s the new Congress’ issue.
Indeed, Genachowski seemed to quash fears that a regulation-minded federal government would be a hefty threat to companies that target consumers online. The chairman said his office was more focused on monitoring abuses of broadband and wireless spectra, not companies that market online.
“Our role extends to the providers of wireless and wired broadband services,” he said. “It’s about spectrum — if [companies or people] misuse that, it’s in our jurisdiction[.]…In the areas that we touch, we are staying on top of it: We’re monitoring it.”
However, regarding tracking specific online companies: “That’s not something we’re directly engaged with.”
The new Republican-controlled Congress has vowed to pick up the privacy mantle, and some have suggested that lawmakers might look to instill some sort of Internet version of the do-not-call registry.
As if that weren’t enough for online marketers, advertisers and e-commerce vendors to worry about, many have worried that a heavy-handed FCC might represent a dual front. But when asked about privacy, a generally guarded Genachowski hardly sparked to the topic.
Genachowski did, however, cite net neutrality as an area that he is intensely focused on. “Preserving the openness of the Internet is obviously important,” he said. His goal: “The market picking winners and losers, not people who control access to the Internet.”
Genachowski specifically cited a ruling in favor of Comcast earlier this year that he thought gave too much power to a company controlling Web access, calling the decision “seriously incorrect.”
Another top session on Wednesday featured Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings. When asked what impact the iPad and mobile phones had on his business, Hastings said simply “very little.”
Rather, Mac laptops actually account for more Netflix viewing than iPads, said Hastings. Comparatively, Netflix’s distribution on gaming consoles like the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii has been “phenomenal, huge,” Hastings added.
Why? “People prefer video on large screens,” Hastings argued. “Long form is not an inherently mobile attribute.”
Hastings was joined onstage by former News Corp. COO Peter Chernin, who reflected on his push to help found Hulu a few years ago. He noted the two biggest motivations for Hulu may not be as relevant as they once were in today’s TV market.
“We were extremely focused on competing with DVRs,” Chernin said, which were seen as a major competitive threat to the networks’ business.
The other reason was piracy fears. “Our thinking was ‘give the bulk of the population a clean, easy-to-use, reliable service [and they won’t steal],” he said — to cheers from the Web 2.0 crowd.
Regarding Hulu Plus, the joint venture’s new premium service which would seem to be competing head-to-head with Netflix, Hastings said “that’s probably good for us.”
What about Google TV and Apple TV — two of the much-hyped products that are looking to gain traction in the emerging, Web-connected TV realm?
Chernin said he understood the broadcast networks reticence to allow their content to be streamed via Google TV. “They’re probably nervous about it,” he said. “The current cable TV distribution paradigm is one of the great business models of all time…50-90 percent of the networks’ profits come out of the cable business. They are nervous about being disenfranchised.”
Long term, Hastings said he was bullish on Google TV — a Netflix partner — but seemed to also knock the product’s primary reason for being: blending the Web and TV. According to Hastings, products like Facebook and Twitter were a “mismatch on TV.”
Earlier in the day, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner shared an amazing statistic: the professional networking company is adding a new member every second. The site already claims 85 million members and reaches nearly 60 million uniques in the U.S. alone.
LinkedIn’s revenue is driven by advertising, paid services and hiring solutions — in other words, helping companies and recruiters find and land candidates. That area represents “the fastest-growing part of our business,” said Weiner.
Why is Weiner confident that LinkedIn will still play an important role going forward, even as Facebook exceeds 500 million users? “People want to keep separate worlds,” he said. “Two words: keg stands.”
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