Twitter is an interesting beast.  It has been around since July 2006 and currently runs with around 200 million users (no figures on how many are activate users), generating around 90 million tweets per day.  (190 million depending on what/where you read).  Who knows the true figure!

For those not in the know, a Tweet is a short message of not more than 140 characters used to convey your thoughts to anyone who will listen (follow).  It's different from Facebook, which is more personal.

The land of Twitter can be a fascinating place and I have personally come to the party late I think.  Being an avid Facebooker, the Twitter experience took some time to grasp but I am there now and Tweeting on very random topics.

There are two things which surprised me, and both are tenuously linked (I promise)

Firstly, how do Twitter make their money?

They are currently valued (or expected to float) at around $8-10bn, which is a sizable chunk of notes.  Especially when you consider their forecasted sales for this year is a mere $110m, (made $45m last year).

So what are their 'sales'?  There is certainly no advertising on the site, or any of their apps.  They don't tag adverts onto Tweets and they do not appear to spam users with promotions.  Ok, all that said, let's rewind slightly.  Twitter do advertise!  Ever seen the yellow "promoted" tag on twitter?  This simply means someone has paid to have their message placed at the top of the list.  Right now I have a promoted 'Who to follow' user of  thomsonreuters for whatever reason.  So, Thomson Reuters have paid Twitter to promote their username in certain conditions (which I clearly meet) in the hope that I will follow them and start reading their Tweets.

It's the same when you do a search in Twitter -- a quick search for 'iphone' in Twitter gives me all the usual ramblings plus a 'prompted by....' yellow tag as the very first Tweet.

Clearly there is money in yellow tags.

This brings me to the second point....their searching is very hit and miss.   It's easy to see it fall over....Tweet something, or find something already tweeted by one of your followers.  Now search for that Tweet (search using the hashtag if it had one; the username or a unique word in the tweet).  How many times did you find that tweet?

In my non-scientific experiment I would say that in a search of ten different tweets, three of them were returned in search results.  Fail!!

Another interesting observation is that results are based on what you use to do the search.  As well as the web interface there are a plethora of Apps available for mobile devices.  I used the official Twitter.com website, the official Twitter.com iPhone App, and the mobile.twitter.com site.  Each gave me different results (which is bizarre in itself).  Twitter.com gave me the most consistent results.

I fired off an email to support and waited a few days as the auto response told me they are a 'tiny support team'.  The reply gave me some pointers to web pages on the subject and also this interesting note -- "Due to resource constraints, not every Tweet can be indexed in Twitter Search"

Seriously, if my whole business model is based on making money from searching, I would get it right AND capture everything if it is the basis of my income.

I'm sure they are working on their infrastructure, but is the current one worth $10bn ?!!

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