| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO U.S. microblogging service Twitter is eager to partner with other companies, including search giant Google Inc, but it is not considering a merger or buyout, the company's co-founder said.
Biz Stone told Reuters on Wednesday that Twitter aims to figure out a revenue model in 2009, an acceleration of its previous 2010 timetable, as the company seeks to demonstrate its staying power even as a slew of technology start-ups go belly up in the weak economy.
But, he stressed, Twitter does not need the financial security of a larger, parent company as it has the potential to develop a financially viable business model.
"The plan continues to be working toward a lasting company. That's the main focus right now," Stone said in an interview at his 30-person company's spacious office in San Francisco's South of Market district.
"Right now we're in a really strong position because we have a lot of money in the bank and we're looking to hire and we have time to iterate some of these revenue opportunities," he said.
Twitter's free service allows people to send short, 140-character text messages to their network of friends about anything from current events to lunch selections.
The service has increased in popularity since its 2006 introduction, with more than 6 million users according to media reports. Twitter does not disclose the number of people using the service.
Twitter recently closed a round of venture capital financing pegged at $35 million by media reports, following two earlier funding rounds totaling $20 million. Last year, Twitter rebuffed a $500 million acquisition offer by Facebook, according to media reports.
Twitter has also begun to generate excitement for its so-called real-time search capability, which allows a person to sift through the flood of messages to get a sense of what people are saying about any subject that very moment.
Some observers have suggested that Twitter's real-time search could pose a threat to Google's strong position in Internet search.
When Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt referred to Twitter as a "poor man's email" at a conference last week, there was speculation that the comments may have been part of a negotiating tactic to acquire Twitter.
WORKING WITH GOOGLE
Stone welcomed any opportunity to work with Google, "especially since we've got search features that are getting more and more popular. Obviously they know a lot in that area, so we would want to talk with them," he said. The Boston, Massachusetts native had worked at Google from 2003 to 2005.
While the slumping economy has made it tough for many Web start-ups to win financing, Twitter -- and Facebook -- are among the few with enough buzz and momentum to continue attracting attention from venture capital firms. Twitter's backers include Benchmark Capital and Union Square Ventures.
The campaigns of U.S. President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain both used Twitter to communicate with voters during the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
"People are always looking for better, more efficient ways to communicate," said Stone.
Stone did not give details about how he would develop Twitter's business model, but like most social networks, it is expected to be looking to generate advertising sales.
"We decided it would be more responsible to start earlier," he said of the goal to figure out how to monetize the service in 2009 instead of 2010. He noted that many people who rely on Twitter want to see some progress in its business model and to be reassured that the company will be around in the long-run.
(Editing by Tiffany Wu and Anshuman Daga)