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Twitter snaps up Google Asia exec

Service could be set for greater expansion in the region

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Micro-blogging phenomenon Twitter is stepping up its efforts at international expansion and has pinched a senior Google executive in a clear sign the company could be looking to target Asia in the coming months.

Shailesh Rao was managing director of Google India and also headed up the web giant’s display advertising business in Asia.

Bloomberg had confirmation from Twitter that Rao would start work later this year on the “advertising side of the business”.

His official job title is vice president of international operations, and although it is unclear exactly what this role will entail, Rao’s familiarity with the Asian markets would seem to suggest that he was picked to focus Twitter’s push into these regions.

Twitter hit the 100 million global user mark last September, although the vast majority of its subscribers are based in the US. It has been looking to expand its international reach, however, with support for 17 different languages including Hindi, Malay, Filipino and Chinese.

One major barrier to expansion in the region is that the micro-blogging site is currently banned in the People’s Republic of China, although last month Twitter announced plans designed to make it much more popular to hardline governments.

Twitter recently revealed a new feature enabling it to comply with local laws by removing tweets if instructed to do so at a country level. Twitter’s justification was that such a move would help it “enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression”.

Shortly afterwards, Thailand became the first nation to publically endorse the controversial plans, after a senior government official there said it wanted to work with the site to use the feature.

Whether Rao’s role will be to help promote this functionality in a bid to win over the likes of China remains to be seen, although even if it were unblocked, Twitter would have some serious competition in the country from home-grown site Sina Weibo.

Twitter is not alone in looking to target China and other Asian countries, of course. Facebook’s recent IPO filing revealed that the social networking giant has not given up hope of cracking the People’s Republic at some point in the future. ®

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