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Twitter

Twitter

[twit-er]
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.

Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email or through an application such as Twitterrific or Facebook. For SMS, four gateway numbers are currently available: short codes for the United States, Canada, and India, as well as a United Kingdom-based number for international use. Several third parties offer posting and receiving updates via email.

As of July 2008, over 2,200,000 accounts were registered.

Origin

Twitter began as a research and development project inside San Francisco start-up company Obvious in March 2006. It was initially used internally by the company's employees, and officially launched in October 2006.

The service rapidly gained popularity: In March 2007, it won the 2007 South by Southwest Web Award in the blog category. Jack Dorsey, widely acknowledged as the man behind the concept of Twitter, gave the following playful acceptance speech at SXSW: "We'd like to thank you in 140 characters or less. And we just did!"

In April 2007, Obvious spun off the service as a separate entity under the name Twitter, Inc., with Jack Dorsey as its CEO.

Prominent uses

  • Large Businesses such as Cisco Systems and Whole Foods Market use twitter to provide product or service information.
  • The Los Angeles Fire Department put the technology to use during the October 2007 California wildfires.
  • NASA used Twitter to break the news of discovery of what appeared to be water ice on Mars by the Phoenix Mars Lander. Other NASA projects, such as Space Shuttle missions and the International Space Station, also provide updates via Twitter.
  • News outlets such as the BBC have also started using Twitter to disseminate breaking news or provide information feeds for sporting events.
  • Several 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns use Twitter as a publicity mechanism, including that of Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama. The Nader/Gonzalez campaign uses Twitter and Google Maps to show real-time updates of their ballot access teams across the country.
  • The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Engineering is using Twitter to relay information to students.
  • Westwinds Church in Jackson, Michigan uses Twitter as a part of its weekend worship services and introduced the concept of Twitter Church . Westwinds runs training classes for Twitter and encourages members to bring laptops and mobile devices to church. On occasion, the Twitter feed will be live on the screens in the auditorium and everyone is encouraged to give their input, make observations, and ask questions in an interactive worship format.
  • Activists used Twitter networks to co-ordinate street protest at the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
  • 10 Downing Street, the website of the British Prime Minister, has started using Twitter.

Japanese version

On April 22, 2008 Twitter announced on their blog that they had created a version of Twitter for Japanese users, because they are prominent users of the service, despite the user interface being completely in English. One week after its launch, it was reported that the Japanese version of Twitter had started gaining traction; Japanese is now the second most spoken language on Twitter. Unlike the US service, the Japanese service is advertising supported.

Reactions

In 2007, Twitter began experiencing problems related to its growing user base. The service has experienced outages resulting from traffic overloads due to its increased popularity. The Wall Street Journal wrote, "These social-networking services elicit mixed feelings in the technology-savvy people who have been their early adopters. Fans say they are a good way to keep in touch with busy friends. But some users are starting to feel 'too' connected, as they grapple with check-in messages at odd hours, higher cellphone bills and the need to tell acquaintances to stop announcing what they're having for dinner. The Industry Standard has pointed to its lack of revenue as limiting its long-term viability.

Twitter Redesign

Twitter has recently gone through a cluster of design changes. In the latest Twitter web interface, there has been a prominent use of Ajax. A design customizer has also been introduced to help users make their profile more attractive. The overall look is less-cluttered which ultimately gives a better user experience to the users.

Security

The first Twitter security vulnerability was reported on April 7, 2007 by Nitesh Dhanjani. The problem was due to Twitter using the SMS message originator as the authentication of the user's account. Nitesh used fakemytext.com to spoof a text message, whereupon Twitter posted the message on the victim's page. This vulnerability can only be used if the victim's phone number is known. Within a few weeks of this discovery, Twitter introduced an optional PIN that its users can specify to authenticate SMS-originating messages.

Technology

Twitter is written in Ruby on Rails. The Twitter API itself allows the integration of Twitter with other web services and applications.

In late April 2008, TechCrunch reported that due to downtime related to scaling problems, Twitter would abandon Ruby on Rails as their web framework and start from scratch with PHP or Java. However, this was soon debunked by Evan Williams, in a Tweet that he sent on May 1, 2008.

Failures

Twitter experienced approximately 98% uptime in 2007, or about 3 full days of downtime. Twitter's downtime was particularly noticeable during events popular with the technology industry, such as the 2008 Macworld Conference & Expo keynote address. When Twitter crashes, users see the "fail whale" error message. Beluga whales are known as "canaries of the sea" due to their high-pitched twitter, and the fail whale is 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." The fail whale has been featured on NPR.

During May 2008 Twitter's new engineering team implemented necessary architectural changes to deal with the scale of growth. Stability issues resulted in down time or temporary feature removal. http://status.twitter.com/

As of August 2008, Twitter withdrew free SMS services to users in most of the world.

As of September 2008, instant messaging support has been "temporarily unavailable" for approximately four months.

Twitter in media

Twitter has been used as a "social justice tool" to connect groups of people in critical situations. On April 10 2008, James Buck, a graduate journalism student at UC Berkeley, and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested in Egypt for photographing an anti-government protest. On his way to the police station, Buck used his mobile phone to send the message “Arrested” to his 48 "followers" on Twitter. Those contacted UC Berkeley, the US Embassy in Cairo and a number of press organizations on his behalf. While being detained, Buck was able to send updates about his condition to his "followers". As a result of the message and the efforts of his Twitter friends , he was released the next day from the Mahalla jail after the college hired a lawyer for him.

Research reported in New Scientist magazine in May 2008 found that blogs, maps, photo sites and instant messaging systems like Twitter did a better job of getting information out during emergencies such as the shootings at Virginia Tech than either the traditional news media or government emergency services. The study—performed by researchers at the – also found that those using Twitter during the fires in California in October 2007 kept their followers (who were often friends and neighbors) informed of their whereabouts and of the location of various fires on a minute by minute basis. Additionally, organizations that support relief efforts are also using Twitter. The American Red Cross uses Twitter (http://twitter.com/RedCross) to exchange minute-to-minute information about local disasters, including statistics and directions. The first trade union Twitter service was launched by the news and campaigning website LabourStart in June 2008.

Similar services

A number of services exist with a similar concept but adding country-specific services (e.g., frazr) or combining the micro-blogging facilities with other services, such as filesharing (e.g., Pownce, Jaiku).

In May 2007, one source counted as many as 111 such "Twitter look-alikes" internationally. Despite Twitter efforts to localize, Chinese-language Twitter clones have far outdone Twitter's own progress in China.

Yammer, which launched at the TechCrunch50 conference on September 8, 2008, is touted as an enterprise version of Twitter.

Twitter search

Summize was an internet startup using the Twitter XMPP stream to allow users to search twitter conversations in near real-time. On 15 July 2008, Twitter acquired Summize and rolled it into their own site at the subdomain search.twitter.com. At the time of the sale, Summize had 6 employees, of which 5 went on to work at Twitter. CEO Jay Verdy moved on to a new project.

Ecosystem

An ecosystem of websites and technology has grown up around Twitter, primarily using Twitter's API. Elements of this ecosystem include:

  • Authoring tools, such as Twhirl, as well as numerous tools for mobile phones and as browser extensions.
  • Search engines, such as Tweet Scan and Summize (which Twitter purchased on 15 July 2008.)
  • "hashtags" trackers, such as Hashtags and Twemes
  • Mashups, such as Twittervision
  • Voice to Twitter services, such as Twitterfone
  • Charts for the popularity of users such as Twitterholic
  • Live community bookmarking of news, video streams and images such as 8ZAP

Clients

There are many different Twitter clients that make using the service easier. Twitterrific, by The Iconfactory, is a popular client, both on the computer and on the iPhone/iPod touch.

See also

References

Article on thws.cn A Chinese site, but the article is in English.

External links

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