Today is Twitter’s seventh birthday. If, like me, you use the 140-character microblogging service you’re in good company: it has over 500 million registered accounts worldwide, with over 200 million classed as ‘regular’ users.
And no, I’m not one of the 36.3 million people who follow Justin Bieber. (Why? For the love of God, WHY?!?)
With its ability to spread breaking news worldwide almost instantaneously, Twitter was instrumental in telling the world about the Hudson plane crash, Arab Spring, the death of Michael Jackson, for sending images and messages both ways during natural disasters in Haiti and Japan and for organising clean-up efforts after the UK riots of two summers ago. 811,000 people retweeted – that’s to say shared with their followers – Barack Obama’s “Four more years” message following his second presidential election victory.
Twitter has also been used to spread news of hoax deaths, and by bullies, racists, homophobes and other abusive idiots sheltering under the banner of ‘free speech’ – a trait it unfortunately shares with any social medium where all you need is a computer or a mobile phone and the single brain cell required to operate it. Thankfully, they’re very much in the minority.
I initially joined out of curiosity late in 2008. 4½ years later, I struggle to remember how I ever coped without it in much the same way I feel completely cut off from the world on those occasions when my broadband connection goes down. Twitter is my primary curator of both news and opinion. It keeps me up to date on what’s happening in live football matches or cycling races when I can’t get to a screen. It’s a little-but-often means of keeping up to date with what my friends are up to, wherever they are in the world. It’s a means of promoting my latest blog posts. It is all these things and many more.
These days I even have three separate Twitter accounts: @timliew is my main identity, @SlouchingTV is linked to my TV blog Slouching towards TV and @VeloVoices is a shared account relating to the cycling blog VeloVoices, of which I’m editor-in-chief. (This is what happens when you work in marketing – it’s called segmentation, people!)
Anyhow, the folk at Twitter have put together this rather neat YouTube video to provide a two-minute tour through their seven-year history.
And you can also search on the hashtag #Twitter7 to see what people all across the Twittersphere (or ‘Twitterverse’, whatever your preference is) are saying too.
One of the best things for me about Twitter is that anyone can say anything about everything and follow whomever happens to interest them, whether it is a close friend, a supporter of the same football team or Bieber. (It takes all sorts.) It is simultaneously global in reach with the capacity to be incredibly narrow in focus. All forms of humanity – and everything that interests them – is here on Twitter.
Maybe one day some new super-platform will surpass it in the future, just as Facebook squashed MySpace, Bebo and Friends Reunited. For now I’m happily along for the ride. Happy birthday, Twitter.