Peter Kafka of All Things Digital has come out with some more details, which he says come from "people who have been briefed by the company", about Twitter's expected advertising platform. According to Kafka, the platform will be primarily search based, distributed via third-party applications and will appear in the familiar 140 character tweet format.

He makes sure to include a caveat, because there's been a bit of confusion since reports of an "imminent" launch the other day, but the details mesh with what we've heard so far.

"Everyone I've talked to cautions that the plans are evolving and that there are plenty of details to work out," Kafka writes. "Including a launch date, though it seems as if the first half of this year is a very safe bet."

When we first wrote about the ad platform this week, it was based on an article in MediaPost, which reported that a Twitter ad platform was "imminent". Since then, Seth Goldstein, who led the talk on which the reports were based, has back pedaled, saying he was only referring to a November statement by Twitter regarding its advertising future. Goldstein since called MediaPost's article "speculation", but this seems to only apply in relation to the time frame. Anamitra Banerji, head of product management and monetization at Twitter, is still on record with MediaPost as saying that the company is working on an ad platform, which is currently in the test phase.

According to Kafka, this is what we currently know about the developing ad platform:

  • Ads will be tied to Twitter searches, in the same way that Google's (GOOG) original ads did. So a search for, say, "laptop", may generate an ad for Dell. The ads will only show up in search results, which means users who don't search for something won't see them in their regular Twitterstream.
  • The ads will use the Twitter format -- 140 characters or less -- and will be distributed via the third party software and services that use Twitter's API. The services will have the option to display the ads, and Twitter will share revenue with those that do.
  • Twitter will work with ad agencies and buyers to seed the program, but plans on moving to a self-serve model, like Google offers, down the road.

The details jive with what Banerji told the MediaPost at the meeting in question.

"We don't think of ourselves as a Web site -- essentially it's a platform," Banerji said. "We don't really control the ads or the way the tweets are viewed and then consumed. We are completely open around other people innovating around us. Ultimately, publishers should have choice. But the one area of concern for us -- and that's if bad ads get identified in Twitter -- it's a problem for us in the long term. So, we should do whatever we can to encourage positive behavior."

An ad platform that leaves the appearance of advertising up to the program just calls out for a freemium model within third-party Twitter apps, where paying users could avoid seeing Twitter advertising. Or perhaps we'll see the emergence of more open source Twitter applications as advertising begins to appear in our previously ad-free apps.

So while reports of Twitter unveiling the ad platform at SXSW may be a bit premature, it seems that there is no question that it is in the works and will take on many attributes of Google's AdWords program.