An email from Biz Stone arrives in my inbox as I sit wondering what to write in my final Word on Tweet column. By chance Biz (one of the owners of Twitter) is announcing the next phase for what has become a byword for social media. This time four years ago very few people had heard of Twitter. The first “Tweet” had not even been sent.
Work on the project started on March 21, 2006, when founder Jack Dorsey published the first Twitter message at 9:50 PM Pacific Standard Time: “just setting up my twttr”. Twttr was the original name and was only intended for people working in Odeo.com but a full-scale public version was launched a few months later. The SMS of the internet grew quickly. Soon it filled with news, conversation, spam, and pointless babble. It – like most social media – reflects the world it occupies and the people who use it.
It has been central to some political campaigns, charitable appeals, live reporting of disasters, near disasters and earthquakes, political demonstrations, pleas for help, boasts of triumph and rather good recipes. Search Amazon and you will find pages and pages of books about Twitter.
In his email Biz Stone announced their 140th employee (significant as140 characters is the maximum length of a Twitter message). “In the course of a year, registered Twitter accounts have grown more than 1,500%.” says Stone.
One of the reasons for Twitter’s growth and popularity is the army of what Stone describes as “dedicated platform developers who have now created more than 70,000 registered Twitter applications creating variety and utility for all of us.”
But Twitter is growing up. That informal group of developers working into the night fuelled by pizza and a brand new idea may become a little more formal as Twitter announce their first developer conference. It will be called Chirp. Once, it might have been called a Tweet-up. Now, that is a sign of growing up.
When the first telephone engineers sent the first text (SMS) messages, no one would have predicted the impact of that simple messaging system. That was almost 30 years ago. Texting is stronger than ever. Twitter still dominates short messaging but there are others such as identi.ca. What will be the impact of these in 25 years time?
140 – it appears – is the magic number.