Twitter posts impressive figures as it celebrates its fifth birthday

"Inviting coworkers". As a tweet it was neither informative nor terribly interesting, but as the first, sent by Jack Dorsey to colleagues at San Francisco web firm Odeo five years ago today, it launched a global phenomenon.

It took three years for Twitter to gain a billion "tweets" – messages of up to 140 characters. Today, more than 200 million users post that number every week.

The site, which simply invites people to say "what's happening" in 140 characters or fewer, was initially dismissed as a platform on which to share colossal amounts of information of very little value. Now, it is an internet giant and even its sternest critics would be hard-pressed to dismiss its significance.

"We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks". So wrote @BarackObama to his followers on winning the US presidential election in one of the least banal tweets in the site's short history.

Six months later, an adviser to George Bush suggested the site should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for its role in organising protesters and documenting the crisis in Iran that summer.

"As much fun as we were having, there was always in the back of our heads the idea of the potential of something important coming from it," said Biz Stone, one of Twitter's founding members. "Even if we didn't say it out loud and talk about it. Because we were just getting started and we really had no place saying anything like that."

Since then, news of Michael Jackson's death first emerged on Twitter, via showbiz website TMZ, Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station posted incredible pictures of the Earth from space.

Despite operating at a loss for most of 2010, the company, which now integrates advertisements with its website, is valued at $3.7bn (£2.3bn), and employs more than 400 people.

The Twitter effect

Top 5 most followed Twitter users:

1. Lady Gaga, pop star (@ladygaga) 8,888,671 followers

2. Justin Bieber, pop star (@justinbieber) 8,267,804 followers

3. Britney Spears, pop star (@britneyspears) 7,172,476 followers

4. Barack Obama, US President (@BarackObama) 7,067,708 followers

5. Kim Kardashian, reality TV star (@KimKardashian) 6,824,049 followers

Twitter spats

Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson

@amyjademermaid ronson you're dead to me; one album i write an you take half the credit– make a career out of it? don’t think so BRUV (17 September 2010)

Kelly Osbourne and Dannii Minogue

@MissKellyO the best thing to happen to dannii's career was that my mother hated her she needs to shut her mouth and concenterate on motherhood! (19 September 2010)

Lord Alan Sugar and Chris Evans

Lord_Sugar @achrisevans u only got there as my readers could not get to the shops due to snow. Your readers work in the shops (7 December 2010)

Without shops, the people that work there and consumers that spend their cash there @Lord_Sugar would still be that miserable Alan bloke (7 December 2010)

Top 5 most influential UK Twitter users:

1. Sarah Brown, campaigner (@SarahBrownUK)
2. Richard Bacon, broadcaster (@richardpbacon)
3. Eddie Izzard, comedian (@eddieizzard)
4. Stephen Fry, actor, writer and comedian (@stephenfry)
5. Umair Haque, economist (@umairh)

Important/historic tweets:

@BarackObama We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion... Thanks (5 November 2008)
Phoenix Mars Nasa spacecraft: @MarsPhoenix Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! (20 June 2008)
@HarveyLevinTMZ We have just got word that Michael Jackson has died… (25 June 2009)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Urgent Requirement - Central Manchester

£20000 - £23000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Guru Careers: Social Media Executive / SEO Executive

£20 - 25K + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Social Media...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions