FORTUNE -- In its first quarterly earnings report as a public company, Twitter's (TWTR) CEO Dick Costolo was on the defensive. The company, which has not yet turned a profit, reported strong top line revenue growth with widening losses.
Twitter Wednesday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $243 million, an increase of 116% over the same period last year. The company reported a loss of $3.41 in earnings per share. For the full year, Twitter earned $665 million in revenue, an increase of 100% over last year. The company lost $1.41 in earnings per share in 2013.
But the widening loss is not what sent Twitter's stock down by 17% in after-hours trading.
Analysts, the press, and the tweeting echo chamber are all concerned with Twitter's user growth. The company reported 241 monthly active users last quarter, which is only 9 million more than it had last quarter -- a 3.8% increase.
Both Twitter and Facebook (FB) have experienced slowing user growth (Facebook's sequential user growth was 3.4% last quarter), but the difference is that, with 1.2 billion monthly active users, Facebook already has almost half of the world's Internet users on its service. Twitter has a much smaller audience to sell to advertisers. The company's $36 billion valuation was based on the idea that Twitter would grow to Facebook-like size and eventually earn Facebook-like profits.
On its earnings call Wednesday, Costolo and CFO Mike Gupta dedicated a lot of airtime to Twitter's plans for reversing the stagnating user growth. In order to attract new users, re-engage the ones who abandoned the platform, and keep its existing users happy, Twitter needs to be accessible to the average person, not just power-user media junkies who speak in a bizarre language of hashtags, abbreviations, and inside jokes.
Costolo pointed out that Twitter has massive awareness levels. Everyone knows what Twitter is. But not everyone who knows about Twitter has signed up for the service, and those that do are often confused by it. Solving that, Costolo argued, is "about making it easier for people who first come to the platform to 'get it' more quickly."
As such, Twitter launched a number of improvements to its service, including a better onboarding experience for mobile users, more photos and videos in the stream of Tweets, and better direct messaging and conversation tools, all of which started to "get that flywheel of increased interaction happening," he said. These initiatives, introduced last quarter, had positive results, giving Costolo the confidence that Twitter will be successful in attracting more users, he said. "Those additive changes ... will start to change the slope of that growth curve going forward," he said. "We simply need to make Twitter a better Twitter."
No matter the positive spin, analysts were fixated on the growth issue, repeatedly broaching the topic during the earnings call as Costolo defended Twitter's efforts. (One analyst apologized for "beating a dead horse.")
This is, surprisingly, the first time Twitter has actually put any effort into user growth. "Up until last year our growth has been viral and organic. Growth was something that happened to us," Costolo said. Now, it's up to him to make it happen.
Apple has had 5 of the 10 biggest quarters. But Wall Street is looking for earnings growth.
FORTUNE -- One of the members of Investor Village's AAPL Sanity board -- let's call him David -- sent me a link to the data in the attached chart.
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The Mountain View company announced its fourth-quarter earnings amid a flurry of M&A activity
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"Tens of millions" of Prime members could find themselves paying significantly more for expedited shipping.
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It only took six quarters, but Facebook earnings show it has won over the mobile skeptics.
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In the wake of a lackluster quarterly earnings report, the Yahoo CEO underscores that a turnaround would take years. Investors may not give her that much time.
FORTUNE -- After a string of ugly one-night stands, Wall Street found love with Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer. The pair had a sweet honeymoon period: Yahoo's share price has more than doubled during her first 18 months as CEO.
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Average estimate: $14.32 per share on sales of $57.9B. Apple's guidance: $55 to $58B.
FORTUNE -- On Monday, after the markets close, Apple (AAPL) is scheduled to announce its results for the first fiscal quarter of 2014, and we'll get to test not just the forecasts of our cadre of Apple analysts -- a mix of pros and amateurs -- but the accuracy of Apple's predictions under the new regime.
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After IBM again misses most expectations for its quarterly earnings, its chief executive makes a concession of her own: her compensation.
FORTUNE -- IBM (IBM) chief executive Virginia "Ginni" Rometty is passing up her annual bonus.
It's a rare move for any tech CEO, and it signals that Rometty knows she's got trouble on her hands. She made the announcement Tuesday as the company missed Wall Street's expectations yet again for its MOREJessi Hempel, writer - Jan 21, 2014 4:39 PM ET
The tech giant can say 'thanks' for a solid quarter, but questions about the long term plan still remain.
FORTUNE—Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) has plenty to be thankful for this holiday weekend. The company's fourth-quarter results, reported earlier this week, came in better than expected. HP's revenue for the quarter, $29.1 billion, beat Wall Street analysts' projections, as did earnings. As a result, shares of the company soared nearly 10% the day after MOREMichal Lev-Ram, writer - Nov 29, 2013 3:00 PM ET
Despite the report of lower earnings -- the third in a row -- a light at the end of the tunnel.
FORTUNE -- Once they wrapped their minds around the impact of deferred revenue on next quarter's gross margins, analysts came away from Monday's earnings report feeling mostly positive about Apple's (AAPL) prospects for 2014. A half dozen even raised their price targets.
Excerpts from the analysts' notes we've seen so far. MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 29, 2013 7:04 AM ET
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