Thursday, March 25, 2010


In these last couple of years social networking has become a popular phenomena. Some of the largest social networks were based on the intention of digitizing real world connections. Since then many of these sites have expanded from connecting people to people, to connecting businesses to people. These days’ people share their ideas in public through these social networks. In essence, the Internet has evolved into “a fully semantic read/write interconnected web of thoughts”. A major part of this new web culture is Twitter.

What is Twitter?

Twitter can be categorized as anything from a microblogging application (similar to a blog except instead of long passages, the entries are merely just short sentences or fragments), to a social instant messaging client. The fundamental idea of twitter is that a person logs into their account, they add friends, who are called “followers”, and they then send short messages (“tweets”) to them. These messages can be no longer than 140 characters and can be received through text messages, through instant messaging, through Twitter’s website or through other third-party applications.

How has it been integrated into our society?

Many people question the value of this service, and wonder how useful is it to know what your friends are up to every hour, and vice-versa. Although on a micro level, messages may seem insignificant, but over a period of time, people have gained insight into their friends’ lives that they would never otherwise, such as what their daily habits are, or how they feel throughout the day. Twitter has also become an outlet for real-time news. For example, when there was an earthquake in San Francisco, a message was sent out asking, “was that an earthquake?” Within minutes, somebody else responded confirming his question, and then guessing what the magnitude was. This quickly was responded with someone who had looked up what the magnitude actually was, and so on and so forth. More or less, news had spread using only sentences that were less than 140 characters. A San Antonio-based market research firm Pear Analytics that analyzed 2,000 tweets (originating from the US and in English) over a 2-week period from 11:00am to 5:00pm found that only 4% of the tweets was actually about news. The other 41% was pointless babble, 38% was conversational, 9% had pass-along value, 6% was self-promotion, and the remaining 4% was spam. But in general, in addition to mundane personal information, Twitter also serves as a tool in politics, campaigns, public relations, protests, and is proven to be incredibly useful in branding and marketing. In fact 17% of Britain’s small businesses are using Twitter. They claim that it is a very effective way to attract new customers, and have saved them significant amounts of money (upto $8,000 in some cases) in advertising and other promotions. In the United States, large companies such as Dell, said that using Twitter in addition to Facebook and blogs, they have generated $9 million in direct sales. Thus it’s no surprise that the largest age segment on Twitter actually is 35-49yr olds. Approximately 62% of the 3 million users of access Twitter though work.

So how did this enormous service begin in the first place?

The idea originated in the mid of Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of the website. Dorsey, merely 14yrs old, worked as a software developer in his hometown, St. Louis. At the age of 18, he was admitted into NYU, where he began working at one of the largest courier services in the country, DMS, where he continued to write dispatch software. His fascination over the fact that the users of the software (general drivers, couriers, limo/taxi drivers) were just reporting what they were doing by stripping information down to it’s simplest form, served as inspiration for the idea behind Twitter. Putting the idea on hold for a couple of years, Dorsey went to California and launched his own company, during which he continued to work out his idea of combining dispatch software, instant messaging and text messaging to create real-time communication. Then in 2006, he proposed his idea to the podcasting company, ODEO. Through the company he formed a partnership with Biz Stone and Evan Williams, who eventually became co-founders of Twitter. In barely two weeks they came up with a prototype for Twitter, and then officially launched it in July 2006. By 2007, Twitter had established itself as its own company.

Future Growth

Since 2008, Twitter has grown from 475,000 users to 7,038,00 users in 2009 at an unbelievable growth rate of 1382%. At this point, Twitter is working on improving their very basic search engine that eliminates duplicates and other “noise” that comes up during searches. They are also working on embedding geographic locations into Tweets. Their latest addition to the site is a potentially powerful tool called the Twitter Lists, which allows users to create custom lists of Twitter accounts, which then can be shared or kept private.

Sources: a b Kelly, Ryan, ed. (2009-08-12), "Twitter Study - August 2009" (PDF), Twitter Study Reveals Interesting Results About Usage, San Antonio, Texas: Pear Analytics,, retrieved 2009-08-18

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