|Founded||San Francisco, California,United States|
|Headquarters||795 Folsom Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94107,United States|
|Key people||Jack Dorsey (Chairman)|
Dick Costolo (Chief Executive Officer)
Evan Williams (Product Strategy)
Biz Stone (Creative Director)
|Revenue||US $150 million (projected 2010)|
|Alexa rank||9 (February 2011)|
|Type of site||Mobile social-network service,microblogging|
|Registration||Required (to post)|
|Users||190 million (accounts, not visitors) (As of 8 July 2010|
|Available in||Multilingual, including English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, German, French and Italian|
|Launched||July 15, 2006|
Twitter is a website, owned and operated by Twitter Inc., which offers a social networking and microblogging service, enabling its users to send and read messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user's profile page. Tweets are publicly visible by default; however, senders can restrict message delivery to just their followers. Users may subscribe to other users' tweets – this is known as following and subscribers are known as followers.
All users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, compatible external applications (such as for smartphones), or by Short Message Service (SMS) available in certain countries. While the service is free, accessing it through SMS may incur phone service provider fees. The website is based in San Francisco, California. Twitter also has servers and offices in San Antonio, Texas; and Boston, Massachusetts. Twitter, Inc. was originally incorporated in California, but as of 2007 is incorporated in the jurisdiction of Delaware.
Since its creation in March 2006, and its launch in July 2006, by Jack Dorsey, Twitter has gained popularity worldwide and is estimated to have 190 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day. It is sometimes described as the "SMS of the Internet".
|A blueprint sketch, circa 2006, by Jack Dorsey, envisioning an SMS-based social network.|
Twitter's origins lie in a "daylong brainstorming session" that was held by board members of the podcasting company Odeo. While sitting in a park on a children’s slide and eating Mexican food, Dorsey introduced the idea of an individual using an SMS service to communicate with a small group. The original project code name for the service was twttr, inspired by Flickr and the five-character length of American SMS short codes. The developers initially considered "10958" as a short code, but later changed it to "40404" for "ease of use and memorability". Work on the project started on March 21, 2006, when Dorsey published the first Twitter message at 9:50 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST): "just setting up my twttr".
"[W]e came across the word 'twitter', and it was just perfect. The definition was 'a short burst of inconsequential information,' and 'chirps from birds'. And that's exactly what the product was." – Jack Dorsey
The first Twitter prototype was used as an internal service for Odeo employees and the full version was introduced publicly on July 15, 2006. In October 2006, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, Dorsey, and other members of Odeo formed Obvious Corporation and acquired Odeo and all of its assets–including Odeo.com and Twitter.com–from the investors and shareholders.Twitter spun off into its own company in April 2007.
The tipping point for Twitter's popularity was the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. During the event, Twitter usage increased from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000. "The Twitter people cleverly placed two 60-inch plasma screens in the conference hallways, exclusively streaming Twitter messages," remarked Newsweek's Steven Levy. "Hundreds of conference-goers kept tabs on each other via constant twitters. Panelists and speakers mentioned the service, and the bloggers in attendance touted it."
Reaction at the festival was highly positive. Blogger Scott Beale said that Twitter "absolutely ruled" SXSW. Social software researcher Danah Boyd said Twitter "owned" the festival. Twitter staff received the festival's Web Award prize with the remark "we'd like to thank you in 140 characters or less. And we just did!"
|Previous Twitter logo, used until September 14, 2010.|
The first unassisted off-Earth Twitter message was posted from the International Space Station by NASA astronaut T. J. Creamer on January 22, 2010. By late November 2010, an average of a dozen updates per day were posted on the astronauts' communal account, @NASA_Astronauts.
In August 2010, the company appointed Adam Bain as President of Revenue from News Corp.'s Fox Audience Network.
On September 14, 2010, Twitter launched a redesigned site including a new logo.
As chief executive officer, Dorsey saw the startup through two rounds of capital funding by the venture capitalists who backed the company.
On October 16, 2008, Williams took over the role of CEO, and Dorsey became chairman of the board.
On October 4, 2010, Williams announced that he was stepping down as CEO. Dick Costolo, formerly Twitter's chief operating officer, became CEO. According to a Twitter blog, dated October 4, 2010, Williams was to stay with the company and "be completely focused on product strategy."
The company experienced rapid growth. It had 400,000 tweets posted per quarter in 2007. This grew to 100 million tweets posted per quarter in 2008. In February 2010, Twitter users were sending 50 million tweets per day. By March 2010, the company recorded over 70,000 registered applications, according to the company. As of June 2010, about 65 million tweets were posted each day, equaling about 750 tweets sent each second, according to Twitter. As noted on Compete.com, Twitter moved up to the third-highest-ranking social networking site in January 2009 from its previous rank of twenty-second.
Twitter's usage spikes during prominent events. For example, a record was set during the 2010 FIFA World Cup when fans wrote 2,940 tweets per second in the thirty-second period after Japan scored against Cameroon on June 14, 2010. The record was broken again when 3,085 tweets per second were posted after the Los Angeles Lakers' victory in the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010, and then again at the close of Japan's victory over Denmark in the World Cup when users published 3,283 tweets per second. When American singer Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, company servers crashed after users were updating their status to include the words "Michael Jackson" at a rate of 100,000 tweets per hour.
Twitter acquired application developer Atebits on April 11, 2010. Atebits had developed the Apple Design Award-winning Twitter client Tweetie for the Mac and iPhone. The application, now called "Twitter" and distributed free of charge, is the official Twitter client for the iPhone.
From September through October 2010, the company began rolling out "New Twitter", an entirely revamped edition of twitter.com. Changes included the ability to see pictures and videos without leaving Twitter itself by clicking on individual tweets which contain links to images and clips from a variety of supported websites including YouTube, Flickr, as well as a complete overhaul of the interface, which shifted links such as '@mentions' and 'Retweets' above the Twitter stream, while 'Messages and 'Log Out' became accessible via a black bar at the very top of twitter.com. As of November 1, 2010, the company confirmed that the "New Twitter experience" had been rolled out to all users.
Twitter has been compared to a web-based Internet Relay Chat (IRC) client.
In a 2009 Time essay, technology author Steven Johnson described the basic mechanics of Twitter as "remarkably simple:"
As a social network, Twitter revolves around the principle of followers. When you choose to follow another Twitter user, that user's tweets appear in reverse chronological order on your main Twitter page. If you follow 20 people, you'll see a mix of tweets scrolling down the page: breakfast-cereal updates, interesting new links, music recommendations, even musings on the future of education.
Users can group posts together by topic or type by use of hashtags – words or phrases prefixed with a "#" sign. Similarly, the "@" sign followed by a username is used for mentioning or replying to other users. To repost a message from another Twitter user, and share it with one's own followers, the retweet function is symbolized by "RT" in the message.
In late 2009, the "Twitter Lists" feature was added, making it possible for users to follow (as well as mention and reply to) lists of authors instead of individual authors.
Through SMS, users can communicate with Twitter through five gateway numbers: short codes for the United States, Canada, India, New Zealand, and an Isle of Man-based number for international use. There is also a short code in the United Kingdom which is only accessible to those on the Vodafone, O2 and Orange networks. In India, since Twitter only supports tweets from Bharti Airtel, an alternative platform called smsTweet was set up by a user to work on all networks. A similar platform called GladlyCast exists for mobile phone users in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The messages were initially set to 140-character limit for compatibility with SMS messaging, introducing the shorthand notation and slang commonly used in SMS messages. The 140-character limit has also increased the usage of URL shortening services such as bit.ly, goo.gl, and tr.im, and content-hosting services, such as Twitpic, memozu.com and NotePub to accommodate multimedia content and text longer than 140 characters. Twitter uses bit.ly for automatic shortening of all URLs posted on its website.
Content of Tweets according to Pear Analytics.
San Antonio-based market-research firm Pear Analytics analyzed 2,000 tweets (originating from the US and in English) over a two-week period in August 2009 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM (CST) and separated them into six categories:
Social networking researcher Danah Boyd responded to the Pear Analytics survey by arguing that what the Pear researchers labelled "pointless babble" is better characterized as "social grooming" and/or "peripheral awareness" (which she explains as persons "want[ing] to know what the people around them are thinking and doing and feeling, even when co-presence isn’t viable").
Twitter is ranked as one of the ten-most-visited websites worldwide by Alexa's web traffic analysis. Daily user estimates vary as the company does not publish statistics on active accounts. A February 2009 Compete.com blog entry ranked Twitter as the third most used social network based on their count of 6 million unique monthly visitors and 55 million monthly visits. In March 2009, a Nielsen.com blog ranked Twitter as the fastest-growing website in the Member Communities category for February 2009. Twitter had annual growth of 1,382 percent, increasing from 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008 to 7 million in February 2009. It was followed by Zimbio with a 240 percent increase, and Facebook with a 228 percent increase. However, Twitter has a user retention rate of forty percent.
Adding and following content
There are numerous tools for adding content, monitoring content and conversations including Tweetdeck, Salesforce.com, HootSuite, and Twitterfeed. Less than half of tweets are posted using the web user interface with most users using third-party applications (based on analysis of 500 million tweets by Sysomos).
As of August 31, 2010, third-party Twitter applications are required to use OAuth, an authentication method that does not require users to enter their password into the authenticating application. Previously, the OAuth authentication method was optional, it is now compulsory and the user-name/password authentication method has been made redundant and is no longer functional. Twitter stated that the move to OAuth will mean "increased security and a better experience."
Twitter is mainly used by older adults who might not have used other social sites before Twitter, said Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst studying social media. "Adults are just catching up to what teens have been doing for years," he said. According to comScore only eleven percent of Twitter's users are aged twelve to seventeencomScore attributes this to Twitter's "early adopter period" when the social network first gained popularity in business settings and news outlets attracting primarily older users. However, comScore as of late, has stated that Twitter has begun to "filter more into the mainstream", and "along with it came a culture of celebrity as Shaq, Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher joined the ranks of the Twitterati."
According to a study by Sysomos in June 2009, women make up a slightly larger Twitter demographic than men — fifty-three percent over forty-seven percent. It also stated that five percent of users accounted for seventy-five percent of all activity, and that New York has the most Twitter users.
According to Quancast, twenty-seven million people in the US used Twitter as of September 3, 2009. Sixty-three percent of Twitter users are less than thirty-five years old; sixty percent of Twitter users are Caucasian, but a higher than average (compared to other Internet properties) are African American (sixteen percent) and Hispanic (eleven percent); fifty-eight percent of Twitter users have a total household income of at least $60,000.
|Twitter's San Francisco headquarters located at 795 Folsom St.|
Twitter raised over US$57 million from venture capitalist growth funding, although exact numbers are not publicly disclosed. Twitter's first A round of funding was for an undisclosed amount that is rumored to have been between $1 million and $5 million. Its second B round of funding in 2008 was for $22 million and its third C round of funding in 2009 was for $35 million from Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital along with an undisclosed amount from other investors including Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital and Insight Venture Partners. Twitter is backed by Union Square Ventures, Digital Garage, Spark Capital, and Bezos Expeditions.
In May 2008, The Industry Standard remarked that Twitter's long-term viability is limited by a lack of revenue. Twitter board member Todd Chaffee forecast that the company could profit from e-commerce, noting that users may want to buy items directly from Twitter since it already provides product recommendations and promotions.
On April 13, 2010, Twitter announced plans to offer paid advertising for companies that would be able to purchase "promoted tweets" to appear in selective search results on the Twitter website, similar to Google Adwords' advertising model. As of April 13, Twitter announced it had already signed up a number of companies wishing to advertise including Sony Pictures, Red Bull, Best Buy, and Starbucks.
In July 2009, some of Twitter's revenue and user growth documents were published on TechCrunch after being illegally obtained by the hacker Croll Hacker. The documents projected 2009 revenues of $400,000 in the third quarter and $4 million in the fourth quarter along with 25 million users by the end of the year. The projections for the end of 2013 were $1.54 billion in revenue, $111 million in net earnings, and 1 billion users. No information about how Twitter planned to achieve those numbers was published. In response, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone published a blog post suggesting the possibility of legal action against the hacker.
Though the company only started selling ads midway through 2010 (late spring), it still managed to generate $45 million in annual revenue. Even operating at a loss through most of 2010, an addition of $200 million in new venture capital in December 2010 and a forecasted $100 million to $110 million in revenue for 2011 rose the company's valuation to approximately $3.7 billion as of February 2011.
Twitter has been identified as a possible candidate for an initial public offering by 2013.
The Twitter Web interface uses the Ruby on Rails framework, deployed on a performance enhanced Ruby Enterprise Edition implementation of Ruby.
From the spring of 2007 until 2008 the messages were handled by a Ruby persistent queue server called Starling,but since 2009 implementation has been gradually replaced with software written in Scala. The service's application programming interface (API) allows other web services and applications to integrate with Twitter.
On April 30, 2009, Twitter adjusted its web interface, adding a search bar and a sidebar of "trending topics" — the most common phrases appearing in messages. Biz Stone explains that all messages are instantly indexed and that "with this newly launched feature, Twitter has become something unexpectedly important — a discovery engine for finding out what is happening right now."
When Twitter experiences an outage, users see the "fail whale" error message image created by Yiying Lu, illustrating several red birds using a net to hoist a whale from the ocean captioned "Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again."
Twitter had approximately ninety-eight percent uptime in 2007 (or about six full days of downtime). The downtime was particularly noticeable during events popular with the technology industry such as the 2008 Macworld Conference & Expo keynote address.
May 2008 – Twitter's new engineering team made architectural changes to deal with the scale of growth. Stability issues resulted in down time or temporary feature removal.
August 2008 – Twitter withdrew free SMS services from users in the United Kingdom and for approximately five months instant messaging support via a XMPP bot was listed as being "temporarily unavailable".
October 10, 2008 – Twitter's status blog announced that instant messaging (IM) service was no longer a temporary outage and needed to be revamped. It was announced that Twitter aims to return its IM service pending necessary major work.
June 12, 2009 – In what was called a potential "Twitpocalypse", the unique numerical identifier associated with each tweet exceeded the limit of 32-bit signed integers (2,147,483,647 total messages). While Twitter itself was not affected, some third-party clients could no longer access recent tweets. Patches were quickly released, though some iPhone applications had to wait for approval from the App Store.
September 22, 2009 – The identifier exceeded the limit for 32-bit unsigned integers (4,294,967,296 total messages) again breaking some third-party clients.
August 6, 2009 – Twitter and Facebook suffered from a denial-of-service attack, causing the Twitter website to go offline for several hours. It was later confirmed that the attacks were directed at one pro-Georgian user around the anniversary of the 2008 South Ossetia War, rather than the sites themselves.
December 17, 2009 – A hacking attack replaced the website's welcoming screen with an image of a green flag and the caption "This site has been hacked by Iranian Cyber Army" for nearly an hour. No connection between the hackers and Iran has been established.
November 2010 – A number of accounts encountered a fault that resulted in them seeing the "fail whale" when they tried to login to their accounts. The accounts themselves were not locked out as account holders could still see their "mentions" page and post from there. But the timeline and a number of other features were unavailable during this outage (which remains ongoing).
Privacy and security
Twitter messages are public but users can also send private messages. Twitter collects personally identifiable information about its users and shares it with third parties. The service reserves the right to sell this information as an asset if the company changes hands. While Twitter displays no advertising, advertisers can target users based on their history of tweets and may quote tweets in ads directed specifically to the user.
A security vulnerability was reported on April 7, 2007, by Nitesh Dhanjani and Rujith. Since Twitter used the phone number of the sender of an SMS message as authentication, malicious users could update someone else's status page by using SMS spoofing. The vulnerability could be used if the spoofer knew the phone number registered to their victim's account. Within a few weeks of this discovery Twitter introduced an optional personal identification number (PIN) that its users could use to authenticate their SMS-originating messages.
On January 5, 2009, 33 high-profile Twitter accounts were compromised after a Twitter administrator's password was guessed by a dictionary attack. Falsified tweets — including sexually explicit and drug-related messages — were sent from these accounts.
Twitter launched the beta version of their "Verified Accounts" service on June 11, 2009, allowing famous or notable people to announce their Twitter account name. The home pages of these accounts display a badge indicating their status.
In May 2010, a bug was discovered by İnci Sözlük users that allowed Twitter users to force others to follow them without the other users' consent or knowledge. For example, comedian Conan O'Brien's account, which had been set to follow only one person, was changed to receive nearly 200 malicious subscriptions.
In response to Twitter's security breaches, the Federal Trade Commission brought charges against the service which were settled on June 24, 2010. This was the first time the FTC had taken action against a social network for security lapses. The settlement requires Twitter to take a number of steps to secure users' private information, including maintenance of a "comprehensive information security program" to be independently audited biannually.
On December 14, 2010, the United States Department of Justice issued a subpoena directing Twitter to provide information for accounts registered to or associated with WikiLeaks. Twitter decided to notify its users and said in a statement, "...it's our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so"
Twitter released several open source projects developed while overcoming technical challenges of their service. Notable projects are the Gizzard Scala framework for creating distributed datastores and the distributed graph database FlockDB.
t.co is a URL shortening service created by Twitter. It is only available for links posted to Twitter and not available for general use. Eventually all links posted to Twitter will use a t.co wrapper. Twitter hopes that the service will be able to protect users from malicious sites, and will use it to track clicks on links within tweets.
Having previously used the services of third parties TinyURL and bit.ly, Twitter began experimenting with its own URL shortening service for direct messages in March 2010 using the twt.tl domain, before it purchased the t.co domain. The service has been[clarification needed] being tested on the main site using the accounts @TwitterAPI, @rsarver and @raffi.On September 2, 2010, an email from Twitter to users said they would be expanding the roll-out of the service to users.
Twitter has been used for a variety of purposes in many different industries and scenarios. For example, it has been used to organize protests, sometimes referred to as "Twitter Revolutions" and which include the 2011 Egyptian protests, 2010–2011 Tunisian protests, 2009–2010 Iranian election protests, and 2009 Moldova civil unrest. The service has also been used in emergencies and political campaigning.
It is also used for direct communication among social groups and organizations, with the use of "hashtags." For instance, #edchat, used at the end of a tweet, means that the communication will be viewed by all users who follow the topic which refers to an ongoing chat among educators.
In 2006, when Twitter launched under the name "Twttr", Michael Arrington of TechCrunch commented that although he liked the service, he also noted that he felt uncomfortable with the fact that every user's Twitter page is available to the public.
Change of focus
The mobile version of twitter.com
Twitter emphasized its news and information-network strategy in November 2009 by changing the question asked users for status updates from "What are you doing?" to "What's happening?" Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Limiting yourself to 140 characters—the maximum for messages on this diabolically addictive social-networking tool—is easy."
On November 22, 2010, Biz Stone, a cofounder of the company, expressed for the first time the idea of a Twitter news network, a concept of wire-like news service he has been working on for years.
In May 2008, The Wall Street Journal wrote that social-networking services such as Twitter "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."
"Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite the Iliad", said tech writer Bruce Sterling. "For many people, the idea of describing your blow-by-blow activities in such detail is absurd," hypothesized writer Clive Thompson in September 2008. "Why would you subject your friends to your daily minutiae? And conversely, how much of their trivia can you absorb? The growth of ambient intimacy can seem like modern narcissism taken to a new, supermetabolic extreme—the ultimate expression of a generation of celebrity-addled youths who believe their every utterance is fascinating and ought to be shared with the world."
On the other hand Steve Dotto opined that part of Twitter's appeal is the challenge of trying to publish such messages in tight constraints. "The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful," says Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School.
In 2009, Nielsen Online reported that Twitter has a user retention rate of forty percent. Many people stop using the service after a month therefore the site may potentially reach only about ten percent of all Internet users. In 2009, Twitter won the "Breakout of the Year" Webby Award.
During a February 2009 discussion on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, the journalist Daniel Schorr stated that Twitter accounts 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 Twitter and said users wanted first-hand accounts and sometimes debunked stories.
In an episode of The Daily Show on February 26, 2009, guest Brian Williams, a journalist, described tweets as only referring to the condition of the author. Williams implied that he would never use Twitter because nothing he did was interesting enough to publish in Twitter format.During another episode of The Daily Show on March 2, 2009, host Jon Stewart negatively portrayed members of Congress who chose to "tweet" 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."
Time magazine acknowledged growing level of influence in its 2010 Time 100 most influential people. To determine the influence of people it used a formula based on famous social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook. The list ranges from Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey to Lady Gaga and Ashton Kutcher. The formula was (Twitter followers) x 2 + (facebook connections) divided by 2.
In March 2009, the comic strip Doonesbury began to satirize Twitter. Many characters highlighted the triviality of tweets although one defended the need to keep up with the constant-update trend. SuperNews! similarly satirized Twitter as an addiction to "constant self-affirmation" and said tweets were nothing more than "shouts into the darkness hoping someone is listening".
Censorship of Twitter
Censorship of Twitter has occurred in Iran, China, Egypt, and South Korea.
Censorship of WikiLeaks by Twitter
In December 2010, allegations have been made by several IT-news websites and other media reporting that Twitter appeared to engage in censorship activities by impeding WikiLeaks related tweets from becoming trending topics, despite high numbers of tweets concerning WikiLeaks due to activities such as the United States diplomatic cables leak. However, Twitter has denied any involvement with altering Trend results explaining that "WikiLeaks and cablegate have trended worldwide or in specific locations."