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Twitter Product Boss: More 'Really Cool Ideas' in the Works

Also: We're not for sale!

Asa Mathat

Nothing is sacred at Twitter anymore.

At least that’s how Twitter’s product boss, Kevin Weil, explained it Wednesday onstage at the Code/Mobile conference at The Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Specifically, Weil was addressing a question about the company’s 140-character limit for tweets, a staple of the product that Re/code reported last week may soon change.

“Great product teams should always be challenging their own assumptions, and that’s something we’re doing every day and [CEO Jack Dorsey] is encouraging us to do that,” Weil said. And while he danced around Re/code Executive Editor Kara Swisher’s questions about what the new character count might look like, he did drop a few hints.

“There’s a power in brevity, so there’s a way to balance that, we think,” he added. “I’m not making any announcements today, but we have a lot of great things that are going to be coming in the future.”

Weil might have the scariest job in Silicon Valley. As head of Twitter’s product efforts, he has one of the most scrutinized and pressure-packed positions within the company; Twitter has shuffled through three separate product heads since spring of 2014. The pressure to deliver is higher than ever after the well-respected, product-minded Dorsey returned to the company as its permanent CEO.

“We’re super excited to have Jack back. … There’s something special that Jack brings as a founder,” Weil said.

When asked if Twitter might get into virtual reality, an area Facebook is diving deep into, Weil suggested that Twitter was more interested in exploring opportunities in the Internet of Things, the idea of connecting household appliances and machines using software. He told a story about a user who rigged his cat door so that a tweet was automatically sent out every time the cat walked through the opening.

“On Twitter, you can create an account for anything you want,” he explained. “There are all these amazing devices and things that tweet, and Twitter’s an open, public platform, so you can build networks of these things that talk to each other and power all kinds of things.”

Twitter hasn’t always played nice with developers, but Weil hinted at some other possible developer integrations down the road, specifically for Twitter’s private messaging feature, Direct Messages. Facebook is already doing this with Messenger, and WhatsApp has established a business in China where other services like shopping are infused into the messaging app; Twitter apparently has its own plan in place.

“We have some really cool ideas on that front, some really Twitter-specific ideas,” Weil said. “Our goal is not to copy ideas elsewhere. How can we build the most value and the most utility into DMs? We’re going to have some stuff soon and some great ideas, so stay tuned.”

This, of course, is Weil’s job, to think of ways Twitter can make the product more accessible to the general public. One of those key products is Moments, the company’s latest effort to get more people tweeting (and reading tweets) around specific live events, like “Monday Night Football.” Twitter and its many investors also hope it will kickstart user growth, which has lagged in recent quarters.

Whether or not that will actually happen, of course, is still unclear. Twitter just launched Moments on Tuesday after hyping the product for months, and while it’s sure to be a defining part of Dorsey’s run as CEO, Weil’s time as product head is also on the line.

One thing that’s clear now is that Dorsey has returned: “Our goal is to stay an independent company,” Weil said, addressing rumors of its imminent sale from earlier this year as the company suffered weak growth, a plunging stock price and investor backlash.

“Twitter is a force in the world, and the way we can best accomplish the impact we want to have is as an independent company,” he said.

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