I would love to hear what everyone here thinks!
Twitter is a global, high-traffic operation with a pile of dedicated servers. It takes a lot of facilities staff to deal with that.
Twitter is an HA service that is trying to build a reputation for reliability. You need enough ops staff to keep a 24/7 NOC up and running and to deal with illnesses and vacations.
Twitter is in an explosive growth phase. They are quite likely to be employing lots of engineers on strategic projects. It can be a mistake to think of your R&D team as some kind of cost that you need to contain. R&D is an investment in the future. And Twitter has a lot of VC money to invest right now.
Not everything scales. In particular: Sales and customer service don't scale perfectly unless you deliberately engineer that from day one. For example, if you build Google Ads (and are able to compete with the original Google Ads) you can sell ads with Perl scripts. But traditional ad sales requires salespeople. Customers like to be talked to, they like to get their problems solved and their tickets closed by sympathetic humans. Depending on the various business models that Twitter is considering, they may need a bunch of sales people to negotiate deals with customers, and/or a bunch of systems integrators to help customers learn to process the data coming out of the firehose.
Twitter needs lawyers and moderators and ombudsmen. They receive DMCA takedown notices. They receive reports of threats and spam. People steal credentials and impersonate other people. There are privacy laws and telecom regulations. They have to deal with these things in multiple languages and around the world.
And why is that, one might ask?
I'll take a guess: Companies hire ad agencies to pursue advertising strategies that go well beyond what's possible with self-serve media buys. It's not that you can't do a lot with self-serve media, or that there's not a huge business for such media. It's that ad agencies serve a different class of clientele, one that has bigger scope and bigger budgets. And, once the budget and scope grow beyond a certain point, it becomes worthwhile to have actual humans negotiate the deals. After all, negotiation is pretty difficult to automate, and most ads are not commodity products.
Ad agencies add value to their clients through strategy, creative, planning, and experience in execution. The actual serving of ads is largely a pass along expense, and therefore ripe territory for smart technology companies.
The "sponsored tweets" need a sales team. Someone also needs to run metrics, analyze results, report back to the customers, etc.
When you start taking/spending a lot of money you suddenly need finance folks. Someone has to budgeting, analysis, cash flow projections, payroll, benefits, external reporting, etc. A company their size will need several accounting positions as well as a few tax people.
Just sending your CEO out to raise money requires several people's worth of orchestration and supporting research and due diligence.
That's a list of all open positions, maybe that will help give an idea.
Even current profits/revenues are seen as an indicator of future health (along with being an indicator of current health) of the company.
$3 bil might not be much in the not too distant future. New markets that were not practically existent before or are far from being mature, are coming up online - read, india, china, brazil, south east asia and what not. Their online advertising industries have hardly developed, not that those in US or Europe have really matured. There's lot more to come.....
New models like twitter have shown quite a good capability in penetrating not only the developed markets, but also the developing markets. Of course, it still has a long way to go.
Lets see where Twitter is in 2 years.
Number of employees is the same way. You can arbitrarily change the number by outsourcing non-core-business jobs. Like HR or payroll or whatever.
When I send them DMCA takedown notices, they only remove the content if I remind them 3 or 4 times. After weeks of reminding them, the content has been seen by thousands. That kind of defeats the purpose of them even offering to take down the content.
There is yet a thing to come of twitter:
I design big systems; HQ campus networks, Hospital networks and systems, RFID/RTLS tracking systems etc...
Back at Lockheed in 2002 we talked about this untapped M2M information layer that was just becoming accessible.
We imagined that there was a ton of data, contextual and revealing about what human actions were, that was happening and going to exponentially happen at a machine to machine level...
this device is here, in this state, with this sensor data and tethered to this owner... etc...
Twitter is kind of this sub-meta layer of information that has emerged - but not about machines -- about the human psyche...
there is a lot to be said for the 140 limit -- think of it as a protocol spec for the machine enabled telepathy that is the internet.
take that paradigm and apply it to the M2M idea previously stated: use twitter as a platform (middle ware, much like Emergin) to deliver short context messages between social systems, in an automated way) and then mine the fuck out of it for intent, interest, trend, etc...
This is like using it to data(sift) mine the information users put into the twitdome to determine such things as stock prices, national satisfaction on [issue], etc...
the beauty is that much can be gleaned DUE to the fact that the inputs are of a known, limited size.
I theorize THIS is exactly why the library of congress has chosen/forced? the archiving of all tweets -- as it is immensely valuable for "opinion mining" a populous due to the fact that all entrants are limited to post in a small, set frame. (better be more informed than the populous you wish to control)
Thus the issues about mining are much more manageable.