Twitter History and Definitions

twitter history and definitionIn early 2006, a young software engineer named Jack Dorsey approached the media syndication company Odeo with the idea of finding a simple way to share what his friends were doing—that is, their status at any given moment. Drawing on his previous work programming web-based emergency dispatch software and finding inspiration in instant-messaging applications, Dorsey was interested in developing a real-time statuscommunication platform with a social spin.

Entrepreneur and Odeo founder Biz Stone, liked the idea. Stone and Dorsey collectively decided that short message service, or SMS (the technology used by mobile phones to send and receive text messages), would be ideally suited to this concept.

They decided on a maximum message size of 140 characters, because it was fewer than the maximum 160 characters permitted by SMS text messaging, which would leave room for a user name and a colon. In only two weeks’ time, the first prototype of what would become Twitter was born. The service quickly grew popular with Odeo employees and other insiders, and attracted the attention of ex-Googler Evan Williams, who initially funded the project.

Twitter was launched to the public in August 2006, and by May 2007, Dorsey, Stone, and Williams officially cofounded Twitter, Inc.

Twitter Defined

twitter definition termSo what the heck is Twitter, anyway? The common definitions of Twitter are mired in industry jargon such as “social networking” and “micro-blogging,” so if you don’t understand those terms, we need to take a step back for a minute. I find myself explaining Twitter to newbies as something akin to instant messaging or chat—that is, Twitter is a platform that allows you to share, in real time, thoughts, information, links, and so forth with the Web at-large and to be able to communicate directly, privately or publicly, with other Twitter users.

The main difference, however, is that each Twitter communication cannot exceed 140 total characters. I am also frequently asked questions about who can see these messages and if someone has to join Twitter to communicate. I stress that most Twitter posts, known as tweets, can theoretically be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection at any time. No one needs to have a Twitter account to view someone else’s tweets.

The public accessibility of Twitter makes it somewhat unique among social networking websites, where normally you can’t see people’s information without them first accepting your invitation

If you do want to communicate privately with other individuals on Twitter, though, you will need to join and create an account. (I’ll tell you more about how you can send private messages through Twitter a little later.) Twitter is based on the simple question “What are you doing?” and encourages users to answer exactly that. But if you use Twitter only to broadcast your commonplace activities, you’re missing out on its real potential.

After all, if all you ever write is “Going to the grocery store now,” or “Just fixed the office copier,” you’re not really opening up the door for much conversation, are you? Conversations of many kinds and the ease with which Twitter facilitates them compose the hidden power of Twitter, particularly as a branding and business marketing tool.

Twitter has given the public unprecedented direct access to companies, celebrities, and power figures in a way that hasn’t previously been seen. Conversely, Twitter enables unfettered and immediate direct access to the masses. For a brand, Twitter can rapidly reduce the timeline and costs of research, product launches, pilot tests, incentives, and promotions; plus Twitter offers a number of other possibilities that we will explore in depth in other articles of this section.

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