Twitter, a five-year-old changing the world

At five years old, Twitter is just starting to change the world.

Jack Dorsey fired off the first tweets on March 21, 2006, an automated "just setting up my twttr" message which he followed with the first "human" tweet - "inviting coworkers."

It was Dorsey who proposed the idea for Twitter while working with Biz Stone and Evan Williams at podcasting company Odeo.

Since then, Twitter has been embraced as a forum for sharing anything from a favorite lunch spot to violations of civil rights and calls for revolution.

"As much fun as we were having, there was always, I think, in the back of our heads the idea of the potential of something important coming from it," Stone said of the startup's formative days.

"Even if we didn't say it out loud and talk about it," the co-founder said in an interview with AFP. "Because we were just getting started and we really had no place saying anything like that."

Williams, Dorsey, and Stone thought it would be fun to build a service that lets people use text messaging to share thoughts, insights and news with the masses.

San Francisco-based Twitter won the hearts of trendsetters after officially coming out at the South By South West technology festival in Texas in 2007.

"South By South West was the real eye-opener to the fact that we had, quite possibly, created a new way for people to communicate that was real time, sort of agnostic with regard to device and potentially transformative in the way people self-organize," Stone said.

"And everything that happened around the world that Twitter found its way into was really just yet another eye-opening display of the potential."

Initially scoffed at by some as a platform for telling the world what one had for breakfast, Twitter has become respected as a lifeline during disasters such as the earthquake in Japan and an organizing tool for champions of democracy.

Stone believed it vital for Twitter to remain a politically neutral technology platform focused on fostering open communication.

He saw the use of Twitter by those out to overthrow oppressive regimes in the Middle East as proof that given the right tools, people will stand for good.

"One of the things I told our team early on was that if Twitter is to be a triumph, it is not necessarily to be a triumph of technology but a triumph of humanity," Stone said.

"If we are successful it is not going to be because of our algorithms and our machines, it is going to be what people end up doing with this tool that defines us and makes us a success or not."

More than 200 million people use Twitter, firing off more than 140 million text messages of 140 characters or less daily. The length limit was set to fit the maximum allowed in text messages sent using mobile phones.

- Twitter 'brought our fans closer together -

------------------------

The San Francisco Giants baseball team, which won the national championship last year, has been using Twitter as the ball club's "voice," connecting directly with fans in real time.

"Twitter definitely brought our fans closer together," said Bryan Srabian, director of social media for the Giants. "It didn't help us win the World Series, but there is some destiny with us winning the year we embrace Twitter."

More important than speaking to fans, Twitter is a great way to listen.

"People are talking about you good, bad or indifferent," Srabian said. "We've gotten more out of listening, but finding your voice is really important."

Giants players are not allowed to tweet during games, a policy that is becoming more common in sports to stem controversy and keep players focused.

Twitter has become a core tool for Marcia Gagliardi, whose free weekly "e-column" TableHopper is devoted to the San Francisco area restaurant scene.

She was originally hesitant out of concern Twitter would only provide strangers another way to pitch stories or harangue her with criticism.

Then she noticed that Twitter was chock full of candid comments by chefs and other culinary insiders. She became a devotee two years ago.

"I can use Twitter to break big news and learn a lot of gossip," Gagliardi said.

"It's an amazing way to keep up on what restaurants are doing," she said. "I consider it the back room chatter for a lot of chefs... you can see which dishes they are loving, where they are taking their girlfriends for dinner."

And restaurants can take advantage of Twitter by firing out notices such as special dishes or when the pizzas are fresh out of the ovens.

A gourmet street food truck scene that has become the rage in San Francisco and other cities would not be possible without Twitter, according to Gagliardi.

Along with letting people quickly spread messages to any interested "followers," it provides access to those who might never return an email or respond to a telephone call, she said.

And that could be a part of Twitter's magic, according to Stone.

"It is not just about connecting to people you know, it is about connecting to people you wish you knew," he said.

"It's about following your interests, not just people but things that are intriguing to you. It's about getting news and information you otherwise wouldn't have gotten."

- 'All in the same boat' -

--------------

If one were to get what Evan Williams calls "hallucinogenically optimistic," Twitter could bring out the best in humanity, Stone said hopefully.

"For me to be able to look at my phone while I'm in a grocery store to see mixed in with Evan's tweets and my Mom's tweets people from halfway around the world engaged in political dissent unlocks a kind of empathy in me that I wouldn't have watching TV," Stone said.

"I think that unlocks... a realization that we are not just citizens of a particular state or country but citizens of the world," he continued.

"Think of things we could get accomplished if we starting thinking of ourselves as all in the same boat rather than broken up into islands."

At five years old, Twitter is still a child full of promise and dreams of changing the world for the better.

It isn't profitable, but is gingerly rolling out promoted tweets, trends and accounts and doing well with early partners in the program.

Twitter, which has rejected numerous takeover offers, has no plans to go public with an initial stock offering, opting instead to focus on improving its operations and services, according to Stone.

He said Twitter is, in essence, like a child getting ready to go to kindergarten for the first time.

"It is just the beginning of a life full of potential and adventure, and I really do think that is where we are right now," Stone said.

"We are just about to go to school and just getting started," he said. "The last five years has really just been us getting our footing."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

    Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer / Web Designer

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

    £32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future