Twitter is 8! The social network was started in 2006 with a unique premise – text-only chats that could be viewed seen by anyone else on the Internet, and whose individual messages could only be 140 characters long.
In those eight years, Twitter has encouraged a new vocabulary. The world has learned about tweets (the messages), tweeting (the act itself), retweets (sharing a tweet) and Tweeps (the users). In the Twitterverse (the universe of Twitter), there are followers (subscribers), unfollows (unsubscribing), and mentions (tweets directed at another user).
The rise of the hashtag (using the ‘#’ symbol in front of a descriptive word or phrase) and the use of the ‘@’ symbol prefix to indicate who a message is meant were popularised in Twitter, and spread to other social networks.
According to January 2014 numbers from Statistic Brain, Twitter has 645.8 million registered users, more people than UN figures for the 2012 population of Southeast Asia. 115 million are active every month, tweeting 58 million times a day.
Small wonder then that news spreads like wildfire through the Twitterverse, and careers have been lost on a thoughtless tweet.
In a blog post marking Twitter’s birthday, the company shared seminal first tweets, introduced a tool to discover the first tweets of any Twitter user, and invited users to share tweets with the hashtag #FirstTweet.
“Millions of prolific tweeters have made Twitter an exciting, fun and powerful place to connect with others. But each of you had to start somewhere: Today we’re taking a look at some choice first Tweets — first Tweets that sparked a conversation, used imagery to tell a story, or revealed unfiltered self expression,” the company said.
Today, Twitter is now one of the first social networks people visit if they want to share information or contact a company. The success of the platform comes from its very simplicity. There may not be much that can be packed into 140 characters, but it is enough.