A decade at Twitter

The real Angry Bird! (photo by unknown)

No sooner did I announce that 2019 is a year packed with anniversaries do I realise, quite by chance, that today marks my 10th year on Twitter.

It was none other than Jason Scott who (indirectly) pointed me towards Twitter and, like most first-time users, I had absolutely no idea what to do with it nor what to expect of it. Twitter was different to the other social platforms of the time.

My début tweet was “Just signed up on twitter. Now trying to figure out why.”

In its early days, micro-blogging was as confusing as it was innocent.

Here’s the original welcome message (redacted):

Subject: Welcoming you to Twitter!
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2009 12:20:44 +0000
From: Twitter <twitter-welcome@postmaster.twitter.com>
To: hmvh@xxxxx.xxx

Hello, new Twitter-er!

Using Twitter is going to change the way you think about staying in touch with friends and family. Did you know you can send and receive Twitter updates via mobile texting or the web? To do that, you’ll want to visit your settings page (and you’ll want to invite some friends).

Activate Phone: http://twitter.com/devices
Invite Your Friends: http://twitter.com/invite

The New York Times calls Twitter “one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.” TIME Magazine says, “Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app,” and Newsweek noted that “Suddenly, it seems as though all the world’s a-twitter.” What will you think? http://twitter.com

Thanks again for signing up!

– Biz Stone and The Twitter Team

In its early days, Twitter was fresh and exciting.

Early adopter Stephen Fry described it as “a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. […] We frolicked and water-bombed and sometimes, in the moonlight, skinny-dipped. We chattered and laughed and put the world to rights and shared thoughts sacred, silly and profane.”

Although many a user flocked there, not everyone “got it”.

According to reports, some 44 percent of accounts have never tweeted. Not once.

Once the penny dropped, Twitter became a useful source of breaking news and grass roots opinion. The unwashed masses now had a voice, and if they shouted loud enough in unison, their gripe became a trending topic that could launch revolutions and topple governments. The initial 140-character limit encouraged brevity, an art form in its own right, and one through which you could witness an event unfold or follow a running gag.

The infamous Fail Whale

It was Twitter that hatched the #hashtag and helped introduce URL shorteners.

Ashton Kutcher (who, coincidentally, had also joined in January 2009) famously became the first user to hit the one-million-followers mark in April of the same year. Today he has 18 million followers. Katy Perry (who had joined a month later) currently has 107 million followers. Some of these may actually be humans.

Some people pay others to tweet on their behalf. It’s become a business tool.

“Now the pool is stagnant. It is frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish. If you don’t watch yourself, with every move you’ll end up being gashed, broken, bruised or contused. Even if you negotiate the sharp rocks you’ll soon feel that too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there any more,” Fry continues.

In subsequent years, the platform’s APIs, reach and ubiquity have devolved it into a marketing/recruitment tool; Twitter has become a home to ISIS terrorists, racists, sexists, homophobes, trolls, bots, spammers, and Donald Trump.

Although its reputation has taken a dive in recent times, one doesn’t need to be a hard-boiled, thick-skinned psycho to continue finding it interesting, entertaining or useful.

Let’s see what happens next. I’m certainly sticking around to watch.

Photo credits: Twitter + Unknown

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