has changed the way people think about keeping in touch with each other by providing a real-time updating messaging system that anyone can use. In essence, has become a true real-time search engine which allows you to find out what’s going on virtually anywhere.
is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters, displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers). Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow anybody to access them. Users can send and receive tweets via the website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications. The service is free to use over the Internet, but using SMS may incur phone service provider fees.
Since its creation in 2006 by Jack Dorsey,has gained extensive notability and popularity worldwide. It is sometimes described as the “SMS of the Internet,” in that the site provides the functionality—via its application programming interface (API)—for other desktop and web-based applications to send and receive short text messages, often obscuring the service itself.
Four gateway numbers are available for SMS—short codes for the United States, Canada, India, and an Isle of Man-based number for international use. There is also a short code for Vodafone users from the United Kingdom. Several third parties allow users to post and receive updates via e-mail.
Estimates of the number of daily users vary, because the company does not release the number of active accounts. In November 2008, Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research estimated thathad 4-5 million users. A February 2009 Compete.com blog entry ranked as the third most used social network (Facebook being the largest, followed by MySpace), which puts the number of unique monthly visitors at roughly 6 million and the number of monthly visits at 55 million, however only 40% of users are retained. In March 2009, a Nielsen.com blog ranked as the fastest-growing site in the Member Communities category for February 2009. had a growth of 1382%, Zimbio had a growth of 240%, followed by Facebook with a growth of 228%.
has raised US$57 million from venture capitalists. CEO Evan Williams raised about $22 million in venture capital. is backed by Union Square Ventures, Digital Garage, Spark Capital, and Bezos Expeditions (led by Jeff Bezos of Amazon). Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital backed in 2009, investing an additional $35 million.The Industry Standard has pointed to its lack of revenue as limiting its long-term viability. On February 13, 2009, announced on its official blog that it had closed a third round of funding in which it secured more than $35 million When asked about how he was going to use the additional investment funds in an interview, Williams said:
We don’t know all the ways we’re going to use that money. Hopefully we’ll keep a lot of it in the bank. If we never need a lot of it, that’s great, but in the climate we’re in we don’t want to assume too much, and we don’t want any short-term concerns to distort the potential of our long-term vision, and our investors and the boards and everybody is very on board for building a very long-term, viable company. We need to do that step-by-step, and we need to invest a lot to get there.
has been described as akin to a Web-based IRC client. The Web interface uses the Ruby on Rails framework and from the spring of 2007 until 2008 the actual messages were handled by a pure-Ruby persistent queue server called Starling. Starling was replaced in 2008 with Scarling (since renamed Kestrel), a persistent queue server written in the Scala programming language. The API itself allows the integration of with other web services and applications. In late April 2008, TechCrunch reported that, due to downtime related to scaling problems, would abandon Ruby on Rails as their web framework and create a new system with PHP or Java. Evan Williams, however, soon debunked this report in a Tweet he sent on May 1, 2008.
messages may be tagged using hashtags, a word or phrase prefixed with a #, such as #beer. This enables tweets on a specific subject to be found by simply searching for their common hashtag, provided that the user has tagged his or her tweet. Meanwhile, the @ sign before a username, such as @example, is used to distinguish a reply directed at a particular user. A message preceded by the @username prefix can still be read by anyone, but is treated as directed firstly to the user in question. This capability was initially called @reply, but was later renamed more descriptively as a “mention.”
Privacy & Security
collects personally identifiable information about its users and shares it with third parties. The service considers that information an asset, and reserves the right to sell it if the company changes hands.
A security vulnerability was reported on April 7, 2007, by Nitesh Dhanjani and Rujith. The problem was due tousing the phone number of the senders of SMS messages as authentication. Nitesh used FakeMyText to spoof a text message, whereupon posted the message on the victim’s page. The vulnerability could only be used if the spoofer knew the phone number registered to their victim’s account. Within a few weeks of this discovery introduced an optional PIN that its users could specify to authenticate SMS-originating messages.
On January 5, 2009, 33 high-profileaccounts were compromised after a administrator’s password was guessed by a dictionary attack. Falsified tweets — including sexually explicit and drug-related messages — were then sent from the accounts.
AprofileTwitter began experiencing problems related to its growing number of users in 2007. The service has experienced outages resulting from overloads due to its increased popularity. The Wall Street Journal wrote that social-networking services such as “elicit mixed feelings in the technology-savvy people who have been their early adopters. Fans say they are a good way to keep in touch with busy friends. But some users are starting to feel too connected, as they grapple with check-in messages at odd hours, higher cellphone bills and the need to tell acquaintances to stop announcing what they’re having for dinner.” Satirical references have also been made, such as speculations as to what Shakespeare and Freud might have tweeted, if they had used . Steve Dotto opines that part of ‘s appeal is the challenge of trying to publish such messages in tight constraints.
According to Nielsen Online,has a 40% retention rate of users, who tend to drop the service after a month, meaning the site could potentially reach only about 10% of Internet users.
In 2009,won a Webby Award in the “Breakout of the Year” category.
experienced approximately 98% uptime in 2007, or about seven full days of downtime. ‘s downtime was particularly noticeable during events popular with the technology industry, such as the 2008 Macworld Conference & Expo keynote address. During May 2008 ‘s new engineering team implemented necessary architectural changes to deal with the scale of growth. Stability issues resulted in down time or temporary feature removal.
In August 2008,withdrew free SMS services to users in most of the world and, for approximately five months, instant messaging support via a Jabber bot was listed as being “temporarily unavailable”. On October 10, 2008, ‘s status blog announced that instant messaging (IM) service was no longer a temporary outage and needed to be revamped. aims to return its IM service at some point, but says this requires major work to be completed.
Whenexperiences an outage, users see the “fail whale” error message created by Sydney artist and designer Yiying Lu, a whimsical illustration of red birds using nets to hoist a whale from the ocean. The message reads: “Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again.”
In the Media
In March 2009 Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury strip began to satirize, with the strip characters ironically highlighting the triviality of “tweets” and Roland defending the need to keep up with the constant-update trend or else lose relevance. SuperNews!, similarly, satirized as an to “constant self-affirmation” and said Tweets were nothing more than “shouts into the darkness hoping someone is listening.”
During a March 2, 2009 episode of The Daily Show, the host Jon Stewart negatively portrayed members of Congress who chose to “” during President Obama’s address to Congress (on February 24, 2009) rather than pay attention to the content of the speech. The show’s Samantha Bee satirized media coverage of the service saying “there’s no surprise young people love it — according to reports of young people by middle aged people”.
Another episode of The Daily Show on February 26, 2009, featured host of NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams (a journalist and guest on the show) deriding “tweets” as only having subject matter which refers to the condition of the author in any given instant. Williams implied that he would never usebecause nothing he did at any given moment was interesting enough to publish in format.
During a February 2009 discussion on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Daniel Schorr noted thataccounts of events lacked rigorous fact-checking and other editorial improvements. In response, Andy Carvin gave Schorr two examples of breaking news stories that played out on and said users wanted first-hand accounts and sometimes debunked stories.
British comedian Stephen Fry is one of the most followed celebrities on.British comedian Stephen Fry is also well known for having a large number of followers and was reported in The Times as being the celebrity with the most followers on in April 2009. The most followed celebrity today, however, is Ashton Kutcher, the first user to reach the 1 million follower mark, with the CNN “Breaking News’” account, and singer Britney Spears in second and third place respectively.
Several 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns usedas a publicity mechanism, including that of Democratic Party nominee and President Barack Obama. The Nader–Gonzalez campaign updated its ballot access teams in real-time with and Google Maps. use increased by 43 percent on the day of the United States’ 2008 election.
In the summer term 2008, the University of Vienna usedfor formative course evaluation.
On April 10, 2008, James Buck, a graduate journalism student at University of California, Berkeley, and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested in Egypt for photographing an anti-government protest. On his way to the police station Buck used his mobile phone to send the message “Arrested” to his 48 “followers” on. Those followers contacted U.C. Berkeley, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and a number of press organizations on his behalf. Buck was able to send updates about his condition to his “followers” while being detained. He was released the next day from the Mahalla jail after the college hired a lawyer for him.
Research reported in New Scientist in May 2008 found that blogs, maps, photo sites and instant messaging systems likedid a better job of getting information out during emergencies, such as the shootings at Virginia Tech, than either the traditional news media or government emergency services. The study, performed by researchers at the University of Colorado, also found that those using during the fires in California in October 2007 kept their followers (who were often friends and neighbors) informed of their whereabouts and of the location of various fires minute by minute. Organizations that support relief efforts are also using . The American Red Cross uses  to exchange minute-to-minute information about local disasters, including statistics and directions.
Media outlets useas a source of public sentiment on issues. The first trades union service was launched by the news and campaigning website LabourStart in June 2008. During the CBC News television coverage of the Canadian federal election on October 14, 2008, the CBC cited a graph, produced by the Infoscape Research Lab, of items mentioned on , along with Tweets regarding Elizabeth May and Stéphane Dion, with the majority of the Dion Tweets calling for him to step down in response to the election results.
In October 2008, a draft US Army intelligence report identified the popular micro-blogging service as a potential terrorist tool. The report said, “is already used by some members to post and/or support extremist ideologies and perspectives.”
During the 2008 Mumbai attacks, eyewitnesses sent an estimated 80 tweets every five seconds as the tragedy unfolded.users on the ground helped in compiling a list of the dead and injured. In addition, users sent out vital information such as emergency phone numbers and the location of hospitals that needed blood donations. The use of by victims, bystanders, and the public to gather news and coordinate responses to the November 2008 Mumbai siege led CNN to call it “the day that social media appeared to come of age.”
David Saranga of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that on December 30, 2008, Israel would be the first government to hold a worldwide press conference viato take questions from the public about the war against Hamas in Gaza.
In January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 experienced multiple bird strikes and had to be ditched in the Hudson River after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Janis Krums, a passenger on one of the ferries that rushed to help, took a picture of the downed plane as passengers were still evacuating and sent it to Twitpic before traditional media arrived at the scene.
In February 2009, the Australian Country Fire Authority usedto send out regular alerts and updates regarding the 2009 Victorian bushfires. During this time the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, also used his account to send out information on the fires, how to donate money and blood, and where to seek emergency help.
On February 12, 2009,was used to organise a global meet-up called Twestival, where users came together in over 170 cities worldwide in the first meeting of purely users. The event was used to raise awareness and money for Charity: water.
The first criminal prosecution arising fromposts began in April 2009 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Daniel Knight Hayden, a supporter of the Tea Party protests against the policies of President Barack Obama. Hayden was allegedly sending tweets threatening violence in connection with his plan to attend the Tea Party protest in Oklahoma City.
In May 2009, astronaut Michael J. Massimino usedto keep updates of their Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, marking the first time was used in space.