The History of Twitter

Tech mistake |“This is what the naysayers fail to understand: it’s just as easy to use Twitter to spread the word about a brilliant 10,000-word New Yorker article as it is to spread the word about your Lucky Charms habit.” -Steven Johnson, author of The Invention of Air

Twitter is approaching its 6th birthday soon and the platform has really come a long way from its early beginnings. Twitter is one of the most popular social networks used today but it began as another micro-blogging platform created by programmers who worked at the podcasting company Odeo Inc. in San Francisco, California.

Jack Dorsey (@Jack), Evan Williams (@Ev) and Biz Stone (@Biz) had big plans for Twitter but they likely had no idea how popular it would truly become. When they first created the site, they were just looking for a way to send text messages on their cell phones and a way to reinvent a somewhat dying company.

On March 21, 2006, @Jack sent the first tweet: “just setting up my twttr.” It would be the beginning of a revolution. Now people from all over the world and many different fields and professions are saying it all in 140 characters or less. Dom Sagolla (@Dom), in tweet 38, typed these prescient words: “Oh, this is going to be addictive.”

And addictive is certainly a good word for it…

Twitter Beginnings

So how did Twitter get its name? Supposedly, the name was inspired by the photo-sharing site, Flickr, and other considerations were FriendStalker and Dodgeball. The definition of twitter is “a short burst of inconsequential information” and “a series of chirps from birds”.

The name was fitting and so the new platform became Twitter. Soon the “chirps” of many twitterers would be heard/seen throughout the Twitterverse as the microblogging platform caught on with Internet users. It would still be a couple of years before it was fully mainstream but it didn’t take this new site long to gain fame.

Why 140 characters only? The limit was set because 160 characters was the SMS carrier limit and they wanted to leave room for the username.

Twitter Spreads the News

Twitter is much more than just your friends telling you about their day. It has changed the media, politics and business. Many will report they hear their news first on Twitter- stories of natural disasters, sports scores, the death of a celebrity and more are shared first on Twitter.

Social media and microblogging site Twitter has changed political communication profoundly. In the past, political news and commentary was only reported by a select group of those “in the know”. But today, we see both politicians and the Average Joe on Twitter sharing their political banter and opinions. It is a new era of citizen journalists and we see people speaking up and speaking out about the things that are important to them.

Twitter has also had an impact on business as brands find a new way to reach their fans where they are already- in social media and on their smartphones. Twitter has become a tool that businesses large and small can use to reach their target market, provide customer service, share their unique content and more. It’s also become a way for everyday people to keep in touch with their favorite celebrities and a tool for the celebrities to stay in contact with their fans.

This brings us to some of the most popular Twitter accounts.


Most Popular Twitter Accounts

According to Twitaholic, these are the current five most popular Twitter accounts:

Lady Gaga (@ladygaga)                                 33,265,051 followers

Justin Bieber (@justinbieber)                       33,262,987 followers

Katy Perry (@katyperry)                                31,405,485 followers

Rihanna (@rihanna)                                        27,928,899 followers

Barack Obama (@BarackObama)                 25,963,966 followers


It’s no real surprise to see entertainers taking the lead there on the list.

One important thing to note about these top Twitter accounts is that many of them havefake Twitter followers. For some time, this info was obscured but there are now tools that can analyze a user’s account and give you more details about their followers, including how many bots or “fake” accounts they have following them.

Status People has a “fakers tool” that allows you to see how many fake followers your friends have. Just put someone’s Twitter handle in and check out their stats for yourself. While the average Twitter user might have different statistics, most highly popular or celebrity accounts have at least some fake followers.

Lady Gaga has 32% fake followers 35% inactive so only 33% of her followers are considered “good”. President Obama has 23% fake, 31% inactive and 46% good. The Biebs has 16% fake, 37% inactive and 47% good, based on this tool.

Twitter Today

Today Twitter has over 200 million users with about 460,000 new accounts being created each day. There are more than 140 million tweets sent each day and while the company had only eight employees in 2008, they now have more than 400 and they’re hiring.

David Foster Wallace said that the Internet was “the bathroom wall of the American psyche,” which led The New Yorker to ask its readers to define Twitter in a tweet. They got some very interesting and sometimes funny responses:

@dnahinga – “Alone Together”

@Wodespain – “Communicative disease”

@Winooski – “Crouching Grammar, Hidden Manners”

@anglescott – “Twitter is the dime store in the marketplace of ideas”

@jaelmchenry – “A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in typos wrapped in bacon.”

@francesolimpo -“Twitter is like the ocean: There’s a lot to wade through, and occasionally you’ll see a whale”

@yamageo -“Twitter is the glory hole in the bathroom wall of the American psyche.”

If you could define Twitter in a tweet, what would you say?

The article was originally published here.