Magazine article Techniques

A Brief History of Twitter

Magazine article Techniques

A Brief History of Twitter

Article excerpt

IT WAS AN IDEA THAT SEEMED STRANGE AT THE TIME--A SOCIAL network where users could only share short 140 character bits of text with each other. It made little sense on paper, but Twitter's early adopters saw the potential in a social networking site that offered users the chance to join in one global conversation.

Critics scoffed: Why would users want to send short textual updates when they could just as easily share much longer ones on Facebook? And why would users want to limit themselves to only sharing text? Twitter was offering only one feature, while its competitors were offering many. Twitter was a fad, a dud, one of those nerdy pet projects that would never leave the comfortable bubble of Silicon Valley. Surely, within a couple years everyone would see Twitter for the nonsense it is and move on to the next "big" thing.

Eight years later, Twitter has more than 200 million followers and is still going strong. What its detractors failed to realize at the time was that Twitter's greatest limitation--the character limit--was also its greatest strength. The very brief nature of messages on Twitter forced users to become more concise, deft and clever in their communication style. This, coupled with Twitter's ability to let big-name personalities communicate directly with everyday users, has made the social network the force it is today. This should be of particular note to educators: For all its snark and silliness, Twitter's enduring appeal is that it ever so gently forces its users to become better communicators.

For the social media-wary teacher who is considering joining the Twitterverse but is reticent to jump in, perhaps the best way to understand Twitter's features is to take a look at its history. Here, e-Connect will break down the history of Twitter.


A group of employees from podcasting company Odeo start Twitter (then spelled Twtter). Co-founder Jack Dorsey sends out the first tweet ever.


Twitter gains widespread attention at the popular Austin-based SXSW festival. Web developer Chris Messina invents the concept of a hashtag, a conversation tracker marked by a pound symbol. The first ever retweet is sent out by technology expert Eric Rice by typing the word "Retweet" at the front of his message.


In May, Twitter goes down for the first time and Twitter christens the iconic "fail whale"--an image of a whale being lifted by several birds. …

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