On the Web, Growth Costs Real Money

Twitter, the San Francisco-based micro-messaging startup, has been growing like a weed, thanks to generous plugs on mainstream media. Data collected by comScore shows that the number of unique visitors to Twitter.com grew from 1.6 million in April 2008 to 32.1 million in April 2009. All that growth is sucking up Twitter management’s attention, along with a big chunk of its investors’ money.

“For the entire [three-year] history of the company, most of the resources have gone to managing growth, and that is still the case,” co-founder Ev Williams tells The Wall Street Journal. The company will have about 90 employees by year’s end, many of them helping keep the (proverbial) lights on. For Twitter, that problem isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, it should look towards a future where a big portion of its resources are dedicated to its web infrastructure —  just like Facebook, its perceived competitor.

Facebook, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social-networking platform operator, has been growing exponentially. In order to keep up with that growth, the company is spending between $20 million and $25 million a year on data centers alone. (These costs don’t include the price of the actual gear.) These costs will go up, when it adds more data center space later this year, according to Rich Miller, who has poured through various SEC filings and has come up with good guesstimates on how much Facebook is spending on data centers.

Bonus link: Tim Bray, director of Web Technologies at Sun Microsystems, lists eight things you have to worry about if “you’re building web technology…But if you’re building applications on it, mostly you don’t.” Bray’s bio.