Twitter, or ‘twttr’ as it was originally called, is celebrating its sixth birthday today. The “social texting service based on the contents of your mind,” as co-founder Biz Stone referred to it in 2006, has evolved to become one of the top news resources in history.
I first realized how powerful Twitter could be not too long after it launched. At the time, I was living in Los Angeles and working for a social networking startup that you’ve never heard of. One summer day, there was a considerable tremor that shook our building. I immediately scrambled to my laptop and attempted to ascertain information about the quake. Nothing. No web resource posted anything about the event. How could they? It happened mere minutes ago. Not enough time had past for the media to post something substantial. Nothing, that is, except for Twitter.
Local tweets slammed my stream with information about the earthquake, specific information on how they were personally affected by the incident. The hashtag #earthquake lead me to dozens of 140 character stories about this minor geological occurrence, stories that mattered to me and the people around me. I was a part of this story and I could help tell it, by contributing my tweets to the stream and being part of an urgent, relevant conversation.
Later that year, CNN and other top news outlets joined Twitter and soon Oprah would introduce it to the world. But it’s still ordinary people who form Twitter’s heart and soul. People who are not only breaking news like the death of pop star Whitney Houston, but also accelerating political revolutions in the Arab world.
So take a moment to wish Twitter a happy birthday tonight. They’ve come a long way in six years – just take a look at the video below to see where it started!