Twitter

John Gapper

Traditionally, one thing upon which the British could rely was that they never heard anything about, or from, the security services, apart from in James Bond films. That has changed. First, Sir John Sawers, the new head of MI6, has Lunch with the FT and now Robert Hannigan, left, the new head of GCHQ, has written an op-ed for the paper.

Apart from indicating that the FT has become the communications channel of choice for British spies, it shows that the security services have decided that it is no longer enough to fight in the shadows. They have to get their message across loudly, in parliament and in public. Read more

“News is what somebody does not want you to print. All the rest is advertising,” runs the journalists’ mantra, variously ascribed to publishers William Randolph Hearst and Lord Northcliffe. If so, news is being deluged.

What struck me most forcefully in the profile of Jack Ma, Financial Times person of the year, was not the Alibaba founder’s youth, his love of martial arts, or his against-the-odds subjugation of eBay, once the dominant force in Chinese internet auctions. It was this: what a failure he was.

I recently spent time sifting strategic plans for seven non-profit organisations, drawn up by teams of MBA students for an FT competition, the winner of which will be announced this week.

John Gapper

Is Twitter showing its principles, or its lack of principals?

One striking thing about the Twitter S-1 filing for its initial public offering was that it will have a single class of shares, with equal voting rights. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn and other recent Silicon Valley entrants to the public markets, it is trusting in shareholder democracy. Read more

John Gapper

The new free trade zone in Shanghai is a fascinating experiment by the Chinese government – among the most radical since it established the special economic zone in Shenzhen in 1980. But what does “free” mean?

As my colleague Simon Rabinovitch writes, there is uncertainty about how much economic liberalisation will be permitted in the zone, although plenty of big ideas have been bandied about: Read more

Andrew Hill

 

It’s time to scotch the idea that because Twitter is a new medium, it requires companies to adopt entirely novel rules of behaviour for employees. The departure of Business Insider chief technology officer Pax Dickinson and the embarrassment of Ian Katz, BBC Newsnight editor, both as a result of inappropriate tweets, illustrate the point.

These men may have been using new-fangled tools, but they made old-fashioned errors of taste, judgment and behaviour, to which old-fashioned corporate codes of conduct should apply. Read more

Ravi Mattu

I had an interesting reader email to my column today on why the improved relevance of the recommendations sent to me by social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn is not a good thing for managers. If you are only fed information based your likes and previous behaviour, you aren’t going to stumble on to ideas that challenge your assumptions, and that is surely bad for innovation and creative thinking.

So, the reader asked, does this mean he should also “stop reading the FT obsessively?”

Quite the opposite – but I suppose I would say that.

But this does highlight another risk for how you access news and information. Where in the past, readers relied on editors and trusted brands to do the curating for them, increasingly readers are doing this for themselves. Read more

Andrew Hill

If you’re on Twitter, you’ll know by now that Warren Buffett is – to quote his first and (at time of writing) his only tweet – “in the house“.

His appearance on the social media service is apparently linked to a Fortune forum in which the Sage of Omaha is due to participate. It has already garnered him (again, at time of writing) 40,000 followers and prompted some Twitter wit from his bridge partner, Bill Gates. Read more

Andrew Hill

The digerati are having fun with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ruling that US companies can use social media to distribute market-sensitive information such as earnings reports. “Facebook Flap Forces SEC Into 21st Century,” says Forbes.

Not so fast. The US regulator’s decision to drop its inquiry into Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, who boasted about new viewing figures on his personal Facebook page, is only an incremental advance into the new millennium. It makes sense for the SEC to acknowledge the growing use of social media (I’m guessing more people saw Mr Hastings’ Facebook post than have viewed any regulatory announcement in corporate history), but I don’t think the decision will prompt fearful CEOs to tweet their earnings much more than they do already – and, even if it does, it won’t make much difference to investors. Read more

Andrew Hill

Three things irritate me about Biz Stone’s announcement that he will step back from running Twitter.

1) He doesn’t know the difference between “its” and “it’s”. (Too much time reading his followers’ tweets, I suspect).

2) He talks about his stint at Twitter in grandiose terms that imply he has been there a lifetime, describing how his work there has “spanned more than half a decade”.

3) His Twitter project isn’t complete yet. Read more

John Gapper

It feels as if Wall Street is moving westward, and that US investors, having been caught up in the mortgage boom, have instead turned their attention to the opportunities on the west coast.

The National Venture Capital Association has unveiled figures showing that the industry had its best start to the year in terms of fund-raising since 2001, raising about $7.1bn in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Matthew Garrahan writes in the FT about the keiretsu-like Raine merchant bank, which is raising $500m from a range of Illuminati from Silicon Valley and Hollywood including Eric Schmidt of Google and Sean Parker of Facebook etc. Read more

John Gapper

Twitter’s fifth birthday today comes as  AT&T’s announces it wants to buy T-Mobile USA for $39bn to form the largest US mobile provider.  The two events are more than a coincidence.

AT&T produced some slides for its announcement showing the rapid growth in mobile data use – 8,000 per cent over four years according to its calculations – and is justifying the acquisition partly by warning of spectrum exhaustion.

Twitter, meanwhile, is the first big social media company to be conceived with mobile in mind. It’s 140-character limit for messages was based on the original 160-character limit for phone text messages. Read more

John Gapper

The platform wars have returned. The past few days have brought an outbreak of hostilities between Apple and Adobe, and tensions between Twitter and the companies that make software clients that let people tweet.

The facts are different, but the underlying story is the same. Many software and internet companies aspire to be platforms for which others compete to make applications and services. Becoming a platform entrenches  them and (usually) their profitability.

The most famous beneficiary of such a network effect was, of course, Microsoft, which established Windows as the biggest PC operating system, and enjoyed years of growth as a result.

For a few years, the explosive growth of the internet – the ultimate open platform – has put many such rivalries into abeyance. Now, they are rearing up again. Read more