Twitter is five this month!
The beginnings of Twitter
Twitter was launched in February 2006 making it five years old this month. There are now 190 million people using the micro-blogging website, sending up to 130 million messages of 140 characters or fewer around the world each day.
Twitter's first broadcast went out on 21 March 2006 when Jack Dorsey, a software engineer at a podcasting company called Odeo, sent a text message to a group of colleagues using a new system he had devised. "Just setting up my twttr," Dorsey wrote. It was the first tweet. A year later Twitter was the hottest act at South by Southwest, a music and film festival beloved by tech people who like to pretend they aren't all about the money. During the event Twitter messages shot up from 20,000 a day to 60,000 a day.
Celebrity users include Stephen Fry, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga and Ashton Kutcher. Celebrity endorsements sent Twitter usage rocketing. Yesterday i published the UK’s Twitter 100 in collaboration with PeerIndex and analysed and ranked people’s online index. Top ranked were Sarah Brown, Richard Bacon, Eddie Izzard and Stephen Fry.
Enabling collective action?
Some of the froth came off its image during the protests that surrounded the 2009 presidential election in Iran, dubbed the Twitter Revolution. Enabling ‘ordinary’ people to broadcast in real time has also been seen by some as instrumental in the protests in Tunisia and Egypt. Twitter's chief executive, Dick Costolo said that there had been "dramatic increases" in the number of users in Tunisia and Egypt before and during the recent upheavals there.
Privacy and freedom of information issues
Material that is published on Twitter should be considered public and can be published, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) ruled. The decision followed a complaint by a Department of Transport official that the use of her tweets by newspapers constituted an invasion of privacy. In terms of freedom of information, Trafigura, a London-based oil trader connected with dumping toxic waste in Ivory Coast in 2006, was the most used word on micro-blogging site Twitter the day after the Guardian was banned from reporting the contents of a parliamentary question relating to the toxic dumping scandal yesterday evening, the topic was widely picked up and aired on Twitter.
Can it make serious money?
Google and Facebook are reportedly courting Twitter. The price tag for this still loss-making venture is put at $10bn (£6.24bn). Just two months ago Twitter was valued at $3.7bn after raising $200m in new financing. Dick Costolo, says talk of a $10bn (£6.2bn) acquisition of the messaging company by Google is "just a rumour" and that the site is already making money. Last year revenues are believed to have topped $45m and they are expected to double this year. But those are tiny sums for a company supposedly worth $10bn and Twitter made a loss last year after spending all that money on growing its business. However, the firm now offers sponsored tweets to advertisers and reportedly sells out every slot available. Last year the company reported that 20% of tweets – roughly 83 messages per second – contained a reference to a product or brand. It's not hard to see that there has to be money in there somewhere.
Costolo said that 40% of users access Twitter from mobile devices and 50% access the service from multiple devices. Twitter is trying to make itself simpler to use, and get incorporated into smartphones so that it is easy to use. He said that there were no plans to introduce a Twitter-branded smartphone. Costolo also revealed that the social media site is growing in terms of new users, although not all of them are active tweeters, “For years a lot of people have described us as a microblogging site but I think they’re missing the critical importance of the service,” he said. “Many of them are just there to consume content.”