Archive for December 2008
As the news of Twitter’s widespread appeal to technophiles and global online communities trickles down to the mainstream (recent articles in the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times show some journalists are slow to cotton on), those already familiar with the web-based microblogging tool will firmly agree that this year was the year of Twitter.
Only born two years ago, this year the number of people using Twitter rocketed to six million, showing a 340 per cent increase in 12 months – a scale of increase which cannot go unnoticed.
Twitter surpassed what the creators (just a 26-person team) thought it would do. They had not predicted the significance of a real-time webtool in the case of large-scale disastors and the US election.
Twitter really came into the limelight this year when twitterers used the service in the aftermath the Sichuan Earthquake and the Mumbai terrorists attacks. This proved to the world (and Twitter sceptics) that Twitter was being used globally to connect people and provide a means of communication in the midst of a disaster – when other means of contact were blocked or failed.
The way the service is being used to break news and alert journalists of breaking stories has also captured the online community and the media, who marvel at its ability to transcend standard methods of journalism.
On Saturday at midnight, Mike Wilson, 37, from Houston used Twitter to alert friends and family of the fact his Boeing 737 had slid off the runway and was now in flames – leaving himself and other passengers stranded. As Continental tried to shield witnesses from the media Mike was calmly standing to the side of the action, twittering more than 30 text messages to an increasing online audience, giving them a minute-by-minute picture of the scene. His messages soon gained national attention and once again, the power of Twitter was in the US and the the UK news.
Another part of Twitter’s success was the fact that other tools can be built on top of Twitter which relate to the site – what Jack Schofield calls ‘tweecosystems‘. So you get, Twitterly, Twitpic, Twitterfeed, Twitpay and so forth – all directing 20 times more traffic to Twitter (and creating a rather addictive way of moulding the noun ‘Twitter’ into new innovative sounding web tools – see my top ten amalgamations).
Another turning point for Twitter fame this year was when it turned down the offer to be bought by Facebook for $500,000. This caused a lot of talk – but it seems Twitter is still looking at ways to integrate with Facebook – a pure sell-out wasn’t the key.
Here Twitter CEO Evan Williams talks to Conde Nast about the future of Twitter – features such as putting people you follow into manageable groups, the fact that those new to twitter don’t know who to follow, and the possibility of integration with Facebook.Vodpod videos no longer available.
It is clear people are using Twitter for different things in different ways. The emergence of Twitter groups and hashtags has been a key development in the program – and one which looks set to make the service better in the future. One usage which has been particularly profound is the use of Twitter as a professional aid – to build contacts, share useful information and link to key sites and articles.
It remains to be seen how Twitter will adapt in 2009 and whether my vision of 3D SecondLife/Twitter integration will take place. Jemima Kiss, who has 4, 6128 followers conducted a survey on Twitter for technological predictions for 2009 – the response was varied and illuminating.
Towards the end of this year users of Twitter have been putting nominations for the Shorty awards – which award the best producers of short (140 characters or less on Twitter) content – i.e. the top Twitterers for the year. Nominations will close on December 31 and the winners revealed. Stephen Fry, who currently has 35, 806 followers gained popularity for his personal daily messages and has been nominated for the ‘entertainment’ category.
Although there may still be sceptics out there, usually those who have not yet found a use for Twitter which suits them, it cannot be denied that Twitter has paved the way for new uses in online journalism and social networking for the future – and will undoubtably continue to play a big part for developments of how we use the internet.