Startups of the week #7.2

2011 has been a great year for the company and its users – but we think 2012 is going to bring change to the service we know as Twitter.

2. Twitter

We've featured Twitter quite a lot here on the UXB blog over the past 12 months. Given they've had around $1.4 billion worth of funding (and have spent over $45m on acquisitions), we're not quite sure they still count as a startup – but given the year they've had, we think Twitter thoroughly deserves the mention in this series.

There have been some remarkable events in Twitter's 2011 history. The Arab Spring, Japan's earthquake and tsunami, Charlie Sheen's meltdown, the August riots, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden; all just a small selection of the events that played out through 140 characters.

Then there was Twitter's partnership with Apple for iOS5, which allows users to share a significant amount of content directly from Apple's mobile devices. It was recently reported that the combination of Twitter/ iOS had increased monthly signups by 25% – after the company announced reaching 200m registered users in June and breaking their record for number of tweets sent.

But, as we've previous discussed, change is on the way for Twitter. After rolling out the first sponsored content earlier this year and closing a round of funding worth $800m (including $300m from Saudi media mogul Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal), Twitter recently re-designed their user interface.

New Twitter marks the beginning of the end of the service as we know it.

The Twitter service I signed up for is one where people tweet 140-character posts, you follow those people whose tweets you tend to enjoy, and that's it. The Twitter service this new UI presents is about a whole lot more — mass-market spoonfed "trending topics" and sponsored content. It's trying to make Twitter work for people who don't see the appeal of what Twitter was supposed to be.

As Daring Fireball's take on new Twitter suggests above; new Twitter signifies a move away from a startup with no monetisation model towards a company that's worth around $8bn earning money from targeted advertising. 2012 will be another great year for Twitter, but it might not be the Twitter we know and love.