On 21 March 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first public tweet informing the rest of the world he was “just setting up my twttr”. Since then it has grown into a major communication platform. As of mid-2012, there were 170m active accounts globally and around 10m in the UK.
Just in case you have yet to join in, Twitter allows users to read and publish text messages of up to 140 characters (“tweets”). This keeps communication simple and reduces bandwidth issues. Tweets are publicly visible by default, but senders can restrict message delivery to just their followers. Users may subscribe to other users' tweets – this is known as following and subscribers are known as “followers”.
Pictures and video can also be attached but are not directly embedded within the body of the message as in a Facebook post. As the world trends towards more visual forms of communication Twitter has moved on with its own six-second video service called Vine. Yet its enduring simplicity is what makes Twitter uniquely interesting as a real-time barometer. Probably more so than any other social channel.
Interestingly the leadership team at Twitter prefer to brand themselves as a communication platform instead of being categorized as part of the social media space. They have a point. Twitter has carved out a very distinct niche for itself as an enabler of breaking news across the world. It's no secret that news agencies and governments tap into Twitter before any other ...