The Growth of Twitter

By latest estimates, Twitter has over 640 accounts and sees around 400 millions tweets per day ranging from important updates to silly tweets. One of the reasons Twitter became so popular is because people could use this platform to obtain real time information in small, easy-digestible chunks. However, when twitter was first launched the founders never dreamed that Twitter could have so many uses. In this video, Evan Williams – the co-founder of Twitter, talks about the beginnings and evolution of Twitter and how his hunches have proven so successful.

Before launching Twitter, Evan Williams was famous as the founder of Blogger – a platform that revolutionized the way people communicate and publish information online. Evan was a consultant for a start-up known as Odeo, where he happened to hire an engineer known as Jack Dorsay. A year later when Evan was deciding which direction Odeo should be heading in with Jack, the latter presented his idea that he had been working on for the past few years – a system that people could use to send simple status updates to their friends. As the company was working with SMS technology at the time, Evan and Jack decided to combine both technologies to create a platform known as Twitter.

Real time information

Back in the days when Twitter was launched in 2006 as a side project at Odeo, it had limited functionality. People could only use it to write short messages – within 140 characters, which would then be sent to friends and followers via SMS. One of the things that allowed Twitter to take off like it did was that people could get real time updates from other users. The ability to send and obtain live or real time information encouraged people to turn to Twitter when wild fires broke out in San Diego in October of 2007. This is the first time people used Twitter en masse to find out what was happening around them via the social networking platform.

Soon enough, big brands and not just individuals were using Twitter to distribute information in real time and the first major company to do so was the LA Times. Some of the other well-known organizations that were the first to jump onto the Twitter bandwagon were the Red Cross and the LA Fire Department. As Evan rightly pointed out – most people at the TED event, where he was giving this talk, were also tweeting about the talk giving others live updates about the TED event.

Varied Twitter users

From a simple platform that people used to broadcast mundane information about their lives, like when they went to the toilet to the latest song that they were listening to, Twitter is now one of the most effective online marketing tools. Businesses are using Twitter as a marketing tool and the recent partnership between Twitter and American Express shows that the microblogging platform is looking to become an e-commerce site too. Even politicians use Twitter extensively during campaigns and to stay in touch with their voter base. Some politicians even tweet live from closed sessions giving other users a glimpse of the political world they never get to see. Most popularly, it is being used by food trucks to let fans know about the next location and planned route. Some food trucks are so successful on Twitter that a tweet causes long queues around city blocks.

Power of the users

One of the things Evan emphasizes is that Twitter was shaped by its users. One of the most important features users have added is the “@username” feature using which a user can give a shout-out to another user. This feature become so popular that Twitter decided to incorporate it and improve upon it. The Twitter API has also seen enthusiastic response with people using it to create thousands of apps for the system ranging from one that allows plants to tweet when they need water to one that tweets when an unborn baby kicks. Watch this video to listen to Evan talk more about the evolution of Twitter and what we can all expect from it in the future.