The co-founder of Twitter unveiled new innovations on the horizon for the popular social networking site, including user-generated lists to follow tweets from many originators on a particular subject, and geographical location datelines to show where tweets are coming from.
Evan Williams, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who co-founded Twitter, also said Twitter is working on a reputation validating system to address isues of credibility for the site. Twitter became a major newsmaker this year when Iranians sent tweets about the brutal Iranian government crackdown on protesters.
Williams said the role Twitter played in showing the world what the Iranian government was doing was "clearly gratifying."
But he said he understood the concerns of news media in how to handle such information, which is essentially unverified and reported by anonymous entities.
"It demonstratied a potential we thought was there ... having worked on technologies that allow people to publish more information freely, I believe, is a good thing ... but it also says to me 'Wow,' we have so much more to do."
Williams said Twitter is working on several things which will help give the network more credibility as an information source. For example, tweets will soon have an option that shows the location from where they're coming.
"If a tweet is coming out of Iran on a mobile phone, there are still ways to fake that," he said, but noted that a geographical location would screen out a lot of fakers.
The network is also working on a reputation system, based on ratings from other users.
"We are working on reputation systems ... You may not know someone is trustworthy, but other people who are trustworthy trust them."
One of the challenges, he said, is the balance between anonymity -- anyone can create a twitter account -- and reliability. He noted that anonymity was key to the Iranians posting images and news of the government crackdown.
"Anonymity was a key thing for the people there ... How do you have anonymmity and trust ... that is a key thing,'' he said.
Williams was the opening speaker Friday at the annual convention of the Online News Association. He waffled on the omnipresent question about how Twitter, which is financed by venture capitalists, intends to make money.
"We're focused on building the value for awhile," he said. "When it comes to prioritization, we value the things that best secure twitter and the things twitter does best."
One new innovation to be unveiled in the short term is lists, a feature that will make it easier for Twitter users to group -- and share with others -- the people they are following. A user could have separate lists they're following, personal friends, sports figures, celebrities, and share these groups with others.
Searchability and organization of tweets is a key goal in the short term, Williams said.
"It's been one of the biggest issues of Twitter, you know stuff is going on in there, but where is it?"
Williams, who noted that he had worked on a half-dozen technology start-ups before Twitter, was asked for tips about entrepreneurship.
"One thing we try to keep in mind, is assume we don't know what will happen and therefore not get too clever about what we're doing ... things don't happen as you think they will on the Web."
He also shared the origin of the name. Williams said he and his partners were first sending their tweets via cellphones that would vibrate, which made them think of twitch ... and then twitter was right below that in the dictionary.
"Twitch didn't have the most positive connotation. ... Twitter had the connotation of birds talking. I don't know who started calling them tweets. At first we thought that's not right, but then we embraced it."