Happy 4th Birthday Twitter! 2006-Today

It’s now March 21, 2010 (in most parts of the world). And guess what special occasion today is? Well, it’s Twitter’s 4th birthday! Back in 2006, Twitter was only a SMS service/micro-blogging platform with less than a thousand users. But today, Twitter has evolved to become the 12th most visited website in the world, according to web information company Alexa.

In this post, I’ve gathered information from various sources around the web such as the official Twitter blog and Wikipedia to present you guys The History of Twitter (March 21 2006 – Today). Let’s activate the way back machine!

2006

- Jack Dorsey first introduced the idea of a service that used SMS to tell small groups what an individual was doing, partly inspired by TXTMob to the other employees at Odeo, a podcasting company.

- The original product name/codename for the service was named twttr; inspired by Flickr and the fact that American SMS short codes are five characters. The developers prototyped with “10958″ as short code, later changing it to “40404″ for ease of use and memorability.

- Its “top secret” Alpha version was launched on March 21 2006 and Jack Dorsey was the first to post a tweet – “just setting up my twttr” at 12:50 pm Pacific time.

- Private Accounts were born. This feature enables protected account owners control who is able to follow them, and keep their updates away from the public eye. Twttr had about 100 users at that time.

- Twttr beta was launched to the public on July 15 2006, Evan Williams’ birthday.

- In October 2006, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, Dorsey and other members of Odeo formed Obvious Corp and acquired Odeo and all of its assets – including Odeo.com and Twitter.com – from the investors and other shareholders. Below: co-founders of Twitter (Left: Jack Dorsey, Center: Biz Stone, Right: Evan Williams)

- Originally, Twitter had no character limit and several issues were aroused. For example, users tend to compose tweets of over 160 characters (the default SMS carrier limit). As a result, they were split into multiple posts which didn’t look too good.

2007

- In March 2007, Twitter wins blog awards at South by Southwest Interactive Conference and Jack Dorsey thanked everyone in 140 characters. This had sparked the first media interest. The micro-blogging platform which normally carries around 20 thousand messages a day, broke 60 thousand a day that weekend. This traffic boost added a strong layer of new permanent users.

- Twitter later spun off into its own company in April 2007 with Jack as the CEO.

- United States first African President Barack Obama posted his first tweet on April 30 2007.

- By the end of 2007, most of the tech world was talking about Twitter — and, not surprisingly, predicting its death. They were questioning Twitter’s business model but the folks there said Twitter will remain ad-free for the moment and continue to rely on its investments to support its server fees. The micro-blogging giant gradually loses its traditional way of asking users this question – “What are you doing?”. Many Twitterers especially bloggers or Internet marketers tend to share links on a frequent basis and the number of mundane updates decreases.

2008

- Twitter wins first-ever ‘Crunchie’ award under the “Best Mobile Startup” category held at the historic Herbst Theater in downtown San Francisco on January 2008.

- Because of Twitter’s phenomenal growth, the folks at Twitter move their from their default web host to NTT America Enterprise Hosting Services on February 2008 in a bid to boost reliability. Some improvements had been made to their office.

- On April 22 2008, Twitter tries to garner more tech-savvy Japanese to join the micro-blogging platform by creating an official Twitter Japan service. However, it comes with advertisements unlike the original English version.

- On July 14 2008, Twitter acquires Summarize. Summize is a popular service for searching Twitter and keeping up with emerging trends in real-time. Like Twitter, Summize offers an API so other products and services can filter the constant queue of updates in a variety of ways. The Summize service and API will be merged with our own and integrated under the Twitter brand. As a result, Twitter Search is born.

- When Twitter experiences an outage, users see the “fail whale” error message created by Australian artist and designer Yiying Lu, a whimsical illustration of red birds using nets to hoist a whale from the ocean. The message reads: “Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again.”

- Unlike the previous few United States Presidential elections, the candidates Barack Obama and John McCain tries to garner more fans by using the power of social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter during the crucial pre-election period. On the day of the United States’ 2008 election, signups were up 40.3% and updates increased 46% from previous Tuesday. Not surprisingly, Barack Obama won the election.

- Twitter hits a milestone on November 12 2008 by surpassing the one billion tweet mark according to Popacular’s Gigatweet which grabs data from the public timeline. The one billionth tweet was actually a private message.

- Later in 2008, Twitter was in the media spotlight whereby an increasing number of celebrities head to the micro-blogging platform to connect with their fans on the Web. One example would be Shaq, a famous basketball player in the NBA. He joined Twitter on November 20 2008, a fortnight after the Presidential election results were released.

- Twitter has sparked off tons of discussions on the Web whether it offers more accurate and faster results and news as compared to search engine giant Google especially after the November terrorist carnage in Mumbai, India and Hudson River plane crash. These events brought Twitter to new heights.

2009

- All thanks to the presence of two influential celebrities – well-known prankster Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey, Twitter’s growth has boosted tremendously at the start of 2009. In the much-publicized duel, Kutcher’s Twitter account crossed the 1 million mark on Twitter about 2:13 a.m. ET Friday (April 17 2009), narrowly beating CNN’s breaking-news feed, which had 998,239 followers at the time. CNN passed the mark at 2:42 a.m. ET.

- Twitter’s “small settings update” on May 12 2009 had sparked controversy on the micro-blogging platform with many users protesting against the new update. According to the  Twitter blog, “We’ve updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.” Thousands of Twitter users around the world were up-in-arms and organized their efforts with the #fixreplies hashtag, which was currently the top trending topic at that time.

- NASA’s Mike Massimino makes history on Twitterverse for being the first person in the world to tweet from space. His status update reads, “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!”

- Plans for a Twitter-based reality TV show were the talk of Hollywood (and Silicon Valley) on Memorial Day, but 24 hours after the news broke, the Twitterverse is up in arms and even the micro-blogging site’s co-founder, Biz Stone, seems to be hedging. Celebrity couple and avid Twitterers Ashton and Demi were even frustrated with over the plans.

- Twitter launches ‘Verified Accounts’ on June 12 2009 following the filing of a lawsuit by St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa over fake tweets made in his name. It features a special seal which enable users to find out whether the profile of a particular celebrity is genuine or not.

- US computer giant Dell announced on June 12 2009 that it has generated over US$2 million in revenues from its Twitter outlet which currently stands at 1.5 million followers.

- TechCrunch reported that Twitter on September 16 joined a select group of startups with private venture round valuations of $1 billion. Twitter received a new round of funding from investors including mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners.

- Microsoft’s Bing had penned a deal with Twitter on October 21 that integrates status updates from Twitter into the Bing search engine. Whenever a user searches for something on Bing, tweets related to the search query will be displayed in real-time. Twitter also announced a similar partnership with Google on the very same day.

- Twitter started rolling out its Lists feature, which allows you to group together, follow, and find Twitter users, on October 30. For example, you could create a list of the funniest Twitter accounts of all time, athletes, local businesses, friends, or any compilation that makes sense.

- Biz Stone cheekily written a blog post on the Twitter blog entirely in Spanish, regarding the site’s official support for the Spanish language. At that time, there were only three languages Twitter supports — English, Japanese and French. However, this figure is far from Facebook, which currently has about 70 different translations.

- Biz Stone on November 10 announced the Twitter-LinkedIn partnership, which allows users to push their LinkedIn status updates out to their Twitter account and vice-versa.

- “Retweet” or “RT” weren’t invented by the folks over at Twitter at all. Early users embrace it to share the best links or tweets from celebrities or their friends, and it soon became an integral part of the Twitter experience. Twitter made it more prominent by adding a retweet button at the bottom of each tweet in an effort to make forwarding a particularly interesting tweet to all of your followers very easy. The main idea is to also hope that the implementation of the button will allow interesting, newsworthy, or even just plain funny information to spread quickly through the network and making its way efficiently to the people who want or need to know.

- With the support of a few volunteers, Twitter unveiled its support for the French language in time for Le Web, a conference whee members of Twitter’s team will be talking about their platform.

- Twitter’s mobile team on December 3 made a major revamp to the micro-blogging service’s mobile site (m.twitter.com).

- Following the success launches of Twitter in Spanish and French, Twitter began rolling out its Italian version on December 10.

- Biz Stone told a news conference in Tel Aviv on November 24 that Twitter will “start making money” in 2010 as it unveils a plan early 2010 on how it will produce revenue through advertising. However, he declined to give details but said advertising will be “non-traditional.”

- The Twitter Research Team on December 15 released the Top Twitter Trends of 2009, which shows the the topics and issues that captured global attention over the year. Among all the keywords, hashtags, and phrases that proliferated throughout the year, one topic surfaced repeatedly. Twitter users found the Iranian elections the most engaging topic of the year. The most talked about person was King of Pop Michael Jackson followed by 2009 Britain’s Got Talent’s runner-up Susan Boyle.

2010

- The Twitter analytics team found out that the average number of tweets a day in 2009 was 2.5 million, and that figure had blossomed to an impressive 50 million as of January 10.

- Microsoft’s chairman and founder Bill Gates, who is currently the world’s second richest man, joined Twitter on January 12 and has since garnered over 600,000 followers. On the micro-blogging platform, Gates shares his philanthropic musings, especially the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and there hasn’t been any updates related to technology so far. He published his first tweet “Hello World. Hard at work on my foundation letter – publishing on 1/25.”

- Twitter added a useful feature called Local Trends on January 26. The feature allows users to discover topics of what people are talking about on the state and city level. 7 countries and 15 cities are supported.

- Biz Stone announced on his own Twitter account that the micro-blogging service’s hiring binge brings it to 140 employees, mirroring its famous character limit for tweets.

- Twitter’s 10 billion tweet was posted by an anonymous user who protected his/her tweets, according to data from GigaTweet.

March 21 2010

Happy Birthday!

About Xavier Lur

Xavier is from Singapore. Having a passion in blogging and social media, he reviews Web 2.0 apps/start-ups and writes news related to social media & technology.