History of Twitter: The Social Tool at Eight Years


“I don’t get it…”

…is the phrase I frequently hear when I talk to people about Twitter. This micro-blogging service is one of the more unique and most difficult to explain of the social technologies — a “presence” tool that broadcasts “what are you doing” to friends and strangers alike, anyone who “follows” you in 140 characters or less.

I won’t explain it now — though I’ve written about it elsewhere — except to provide this metaphor:

  • If Facebook is like communicating at a bar-b-que
  • Then Twitter is like communicating at a bar

Birth of Twitter

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey, or as he’s known by his Twitter handle @jack, sent his first Tweet, according to the Twitter blog. Now, there is a “hashtag” or subject tracking tag related to this event: #Twitter7

With celebrity adoption of this social platform, it is now becoming the universal address where you can find some people. Mine is @billpetro

My first tweet was on January 15, 2007, as seen below. This was back in the day when Twitter first asked the question: “What are you doing?”


First Tweet


My tweets got more interesting over time. If you have a Twitter account, you can search for your first tweet by visiting here.


Twitter’s Popularization of Hashtags

The increasing use of hashtags, those #tags that give threads their vitality, means Twitter is a companion when watching the #Oscars on TV or one is following the launch of the latest #iPad. There are rumors that Twitter may be looking at ways to cut back on all the @ signs and # hashtags that can be confusing for first-time users.

With somewhere between half a billion and a billion registered user accounts — about 241 million are active monthly users — Twitter is one of the most popular one-to-many social platforms. It follows Facebook in size and unique monthly visitors, and Twitter is followed in size by LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.

As a U.S. company, most of the users and most of the tweets originate here, with 50 million users in America or about 15% of the population, expecting to reach 20% of the population by 2018. The largest core is the key 18-24 demographic, though a good percentage of growth is expected to come from older users. Twitter captures 2.6% of global mobile ad revenue, while Google has 46.8% and Facebook has 21.7%.


Breaking Twitter

In an interesting self-fulfilling prophecy, Twitter was broken by the 2008 Academy Awards when the host tweeted a “selfie” with friends that took the Twitter service offline for a few minutes. By 5:00 am the next day, it has been retweeted 2.4 million times, more than any other tweet in history. Tweets about the Oscars were viewed by over 3.3 billion times worldwide.


Follow me at my Twitter feed: twitter.com/billpetro


Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian


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About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.


  1. @seconddrafts on March 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I’ve heard it said that Facebook is for keeping up with the people you went to high school with, whereas Twitter is for keeping up with the people you WISH you went to high school with. Kind of sums it up for me (though I follow you both places, Bill).

    • Bill Petro on March 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Thanks for the comment, I like it!

      Merryl Streep once said in a college commencement speech: “You have been told that Real Life is not like college, and you have been correctly informed. Real Life is more like high school.”


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