- Founder(s): Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone And Noah Glass
- Industry: Social Media, ICT
San Francisco, USA
The Twitter Service Inception
Twitter Inc. is based in San Francisco and has more than 25 offices around the world. The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with more than 100 million users who in 2012 posted 340 million tweets per day. The service also handled 1.6 billion search queries per day. In 2013 Twitter was one of the ten most-visited websites, and has been described as "the SMS of the Internet.
Twitter began as an idea that co-founder Jack Dorsey had in 2006. Dorsey had originally imagined Twitter as an SMS-based communications platform. Groups of friends could keep tabs on what each other were doing based on their status updates. Like texting, but not during a brainstorming session at the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey proposed this SMS based platform to Odeo's co-founder Evan Williams. Evan, and his co-founder Biz Stone by extension, gave Jack the go-ahead to spend more time on the project and develop it further.
In its early days, Twitter was referred to as "twttr". At the time, a popular trend, sometimes to gain domain name advantage, was to drop vowels in the name of their companies and services. Software developer Noah Glass is credited with coming up with the original name twttr as well as its final incarnation as Twitter.
The First Tweet
Jack sent the first message on Twitter on March 21, 2006 9:50pm. It read, "Just setting up my twttr". During the development of Twitter, team members would often rack up hundreds of dollars in SMS charges to their personal phone bills. While the initial concept of Twitter was being tested at Odeo, the company was going through a rough patch faced with the brutal reality that Apple had just released its own podcasting platform which essentially killed Odeo's business model, the founders decided to buy their company back from the investors.
Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams and other members of Odeo staff facilitated the buyback. By doing this, they acquired the rights to the Twitter platform. There is some controversy surrounding how this all took place. It's questionable whether Odeo investors knew the full scope of the Twitter platform. Also, key members of the Twitter development team were not brought on to the new company, most notably, Noah Glass. As a formality, Obvious Corporation was created after the investor buyback of Odeo in order to house Twitter.
Twitter was now on the cusp of its biggest growth spurt. The 2007 South by Southwest Interactive conference saw a huge explosion of Twitter usage. More than 60 thousand Tweets were sent per day at the event. The Twitter team had a huge presence at the event and took advantage of the viral nature of conference and its attendees. It's safe to say that Twitter had its fair share of growing pains during its formative years. Twitter's user base grew at astounding rates and quite frequently the service would be over capacity. When this occurred, an illustration by artist Yiying Lu appeared on screen. The illustration featured a whale being lifted out of the water by eight birds to safety. The Twitter team used this image because they thought it symbolized the acknowledgment of the problem and that they were working on it. This error page went viral within the Twitter community and soon was dubbed the "Fail Whale".
Twitter's Continued Development
At one point, you may have questioned why you can only Tweet 140 characters. The reason for such a specific limitation is that Twitter was originally designed as a SMS mobile phone-based platform. 140 characters was the limit that mobile carriers imposed with SMS protocol standard. Twitter eventually grew into a web platform and the 140-character limit remained. Think of it as a creative constraint.
As Twitter's user base started growing, a funny thing started to happen. Users were creating new jargon and different ways to use the service. Think of it as innovation born out of necessity. Initially users had no way of replying or shouting out one another on Twitter. Some users would include a symbol before their username to identify another user within a Tweet. This became such a prevalent way to acknowledge another user that the Twitter team added the functionality natively to the Twitter platform.
The same thing happened with hash tags, which are now an integral part of the Twitter ecosystem. This user-driven functionality is also true for how re-tweets were created. Users wanted a way to re-post a message from a Twitter user while including credit to the user who originally tweeted it. Users started to add RT before sending the message, signaling to their followers that the following tweet was a repost. In August 2010, this functionality was officially added into the platform. In six years, Twitters' user base has grown to over 200 million active monthly users. And most recently in March 2013, Jack and Biz were awarded the patent they applied for way back in 2007 that secures the entire Twitter ecosystem.