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Ten Years of Twitter

by Alex Blewitt on Mar 21, 2016 |

Today marks Twitter's 10th anniversary, having been started on 21 March 2006. The first tweet by founder and now CEO Jack Dorsey reads:

Dorsey marked the occasion today by Tweeting a video showing how Twitter has reacted to, and sometimes broken, major news events and social changes over the last ten years.

The service, initially limited to 140 characters in order to fit into a 160 character SMS text message, gave rise to the term micro blogging; a way of communicating information in a short and concise way rather than extended blog posts. The existence of Twitter, and rivals such as Facebook, has led to the decline of blogging generally and for almost a generation to grow up without knowing what a blog is. (This could also be attributable to Google killing off Google Reader, which at the time was the de-facto standard web-based blog reading tool.)

Twitter has outlived Google Plus, which thanks to its initial roll out being limited and its strict adherence of a single-user-real-name-policy never really took off in the way that Twitter has done for anonymous users. And while more people use Facebook than Twitter, one thing that Twitter has done is to be able to connect disconnected people together in a way that no other communications tool has done before. From earthquakes and other natural disasters to concerts and elections, Twitter has been used to connect people over something as simple as a a 'hashtag', to the point where my own children refer to the '#' character as "the hashtag symbol".

To celebrate the ten years, Twitter have provided an infographic that covers some of the most notable events captured over the last decade, including:

There are also a large number of followers of Twitter celebrities, although none has yet to cross the 100 million mark. (Currently, Katy Perry has 85m and Justin Bieber has 77m; possibly the only time these two names will be mentioned on InfoQ.)

Others are treating the anniversary as highlighting the fact that Twitter has yet to make a profit. Despite going public in 2013, they are said to have lost $2bn over the last decade, three quarters of which was since the floatation date.

Twitter has also flirted with developers, in publishing an API to allow other clients to be written and then severely clipping them (or buying them outright, as it did with TweetDeck, one of the most popular non-Twitter clients). The have been integrated into mobile device operating systems and are used on a daily basis to communicate service and status information, with companies using them as a very public (and successful) customer support service and/or advertising medium.

What Twitter has done is nothing short of amazing; they have created a platform that is used by millions of people; they have built a massively distributed scalable messaging platform; they have injected themselves into advertising channels around the world. Perhaps no other company has epitomised startups over the last decade; wildly successful, known and used by many, and unprofitable.

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