Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as "tweets". It was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July. The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with over 140 million active users as of 2012, and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day. Since its launch, the Twitter website has become one of the top 10 most visited on the Internet, and has been described as "the SMS of the Internet." Unregistered users can read the tweets, while registered users can post tweets through the website interface, SMS, or a range of apps for mobile devices.
Twitter Inc. is based in San Francisco, with additional servers and offices in New York City.
Twitter has been cited as an important factor in the Arab Spring and other political protests.
Creation and initial reaction
Twitter's origins lie in a "daylong brainstorming session" held by board members of the podcasting company Odeo. 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, an idea that Williams later ascribed to Noah Glass, 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 : "just setting up my twttr".
"...we 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. Williams fired Glass who was silent about his part in Twitter's startup until 2011. Twitter spun off into its own company in April 2007.
The tipping point for Twitter's popularity was the 2007 South by Southwest Interactive conference. 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 conference was highly positive. Blogger Scott Beale said that Twitter "absolutely rul" SXSWi. Social software researcher danah boyd said Twitter "own" the conference. 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!"
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. NASA has also hosted over 25 "tweetups", events that provide guests with VIP access to NASA facilities and speakers with the goal of leveraging participants' social networks to further the outreach goals of NASA.
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.
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. As of June 2010, about 65 million tweets were posted each day, equaling about 750 tweets sent each second, according to Twitter. As of March 2011, that was about 140 million tweets posted daily. 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. The current record was set during the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final between Japan and the United States, when 7,196 tweets per second were published. When American singer Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, Twitter 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, iPad and Mac.
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 and Flickr, and 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.
On April 5, 2011, Twitter tested a new homepage and phased out the "Old Twitter." However, a glitch came about after the page was launched, so the previous "retro" homepage was still in use until the issues were resolved; the new homepage was reintroduced on April 20.
On December 8, 2011, Twitter overhauled its website once more to feature the "Fly" design, which the service says is easier for new users to follow and promotes advertising. In addition to the Home tab, the Connect and Discover tabs were introduced along with a redesigned profile and timeline of Tweets. The site's layout has been compared to that of Facebook.
On February 21, 2012, it was announced that Twitter and Yandex agreed to a partnership. Yandex, a Russian search engine, finds value within the partnership due to Twitter’s real time news feeds. Twitter’s director of business development explained that it is important to have Twitter content where Twitter users go.
On March 21, 2012, Twitter celebrated its sixth birthday while also announcing that it has 140 million users and sees 340 million tweets per day. The number of users is up 40% from their September 2011 number, which was said to have been at 100 million at the time.
In April 2012, Twitter announced that it was opening an office in Detroit, with the aim of working with automotive brands and advertising agencies. Twitter also expanded its office in Dublin.
On June 4, 2012, Twitter announced the purchase of Washington, D.C. based web design agency Nclud. Upon the purchase, Nclud's co-founder and director of brand experience, Martin Ringlein, was named Twitter's new design manager. On June 5, a modified logo was unveiled through the company blog, removing the text to showcase the slightly-redesigned bird as the sole symbol of Twitter.
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."
According to The New York Times, "Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Costolo forged a close relationship" when Williams was away. According to PC Magazine, Williams was "no longer involved in the day-to-day goings on at the company". He is focused on developing a new startup, but he became a member of Twitter's board of directors, and promised to "help in any way I can". Stone is still with Twitter but is working with AOL as an "advisor on volunteer efforts and philanthropy".
Dorsey rejoined Twitter in March 2011, as executive chairman focusing on product development. His time is split with Square, whose offices are within walking distance of Twitter's in San Francisco.
Twitter has become internationally identifiable by its signature bird logo. The original logo was in use from its launch in March 2006 until September 2010. A slightly modified version succeeded the first style when the website underwent its first redesign.
On February 27, 2012, a tweet from an employee that works on the company's platform and API discussed the evolution of the "Larry the Bird" logo with Twitter's creative director and it was revealed that it was named after Larry Bird of the NBA's Boston Celtics fame. This detail had previously been confirmed when the Boston Celtics' director of interactive media asked Twitter co-founder Biz Stone about it in August 2011.
On June 5, 2012, Twitter unveiled its third logo redesign, replacing Larry the Bird with an updated icon simply named as the "Twitter Bird." As of this logo revision, the word "Twitter" and the lowercase letter "t" are no longer used, with the bird becoming the sole symbol for the company's branding.