Today is 5 years to the day since the launch of Twitter, or at least 5 years to the day since Co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the following tweet:
I’m a big fan of Twitter, I use it on a daily basis to keep in touch with people, share content, and to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world, and so do more than 190 million people worldwide.
From humble beginnings as a place where users were asked a single question, Twitter has become an almost ubiquitous service that is used by governments, celebrities, and advocacy groups in order to organise followers, and pass on news.
Over the past 5 years, the interface may have changed significantly, and the functionality may have improved, but Twitter’s major triumph is that it has kept true to it’s original statement:
A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?
Twitter has become so much more than just a place to share a status update. It has become the hub of an entire ecosystem powered by 3rd party apps that have been able to extend the basic service enormously to the point where users can now share almost everything in their lives including photos, sound, videos and news stories in real time.
A while ago, @ev made a statement that if Twitter could grow to a billion users, it could become the pulse of the planet, but it has already achieved that. Thanks to the founders recognising that the community needed to be empowered to develop Twitter into what they wanted it to be, it has become a mine of data about the daily lives and likes of its users. Businesses use Twitter not only to promote their content, but also to monitor sentiment about them, and to manage their customer service levels in a connected world.
As is the case on the web, whenever one website becomes dominant, marketers start looking for the next big thing. Back in 2009, when Twitter hit the million user mark, there was a raft of posts looking for the Twitter Killer. At the time, I suspected that the next big thing would be FriendFeed. It wasn’t, however what did happen was that Twitter was able to evolve into what FriendFeed was. A central resource for all of your social content, so I was kind of right.
Twitter’s openness, agility and responsiveness to a community that drives it has been the force behind its success to date.
Things change however, and the recent restrictions about what kinds of app will be approved for Twitter (no more custom clients) have been seen as the start of big changes to the Twitter eco-system that could potentially stifle development.
It is the vibrancy of the community that has attracted so many people to use Twitter in the first place, and although there will always be inertia to keep people tuned in, the fact is that Twitter does not have the same level of tie in that is held by Facebook. Having said that, three years ago, we were looking for the next Twitter, and for the past 10 years we’ve been looking for the next Google. Sometimes things are popular simply because they are the best way of doing things.