It started off 10 years ago when co-founder Jack Dorsey sent out the first tweet – just setting up my twttr. Over the decade, Twitter has revolutionised the way the world communicates. The first big difference it brought was brevity. Today on the world’s breaking news network – Twitter – anyone, anywhere can express anything in the 140-character limit. A tweet can reach millions of users across the globe in a few hours depending on the number of people following the person tweeting it. Actor Katy Perry leads the world with 84.8 million followers followed by Justin Bieber (77.5 million). Among global leaders Barrack Obama leads (71.4 million), while Narendra Modi at 18.7 million is still behind Amitabh Bachchan (19.9 million). With a smartphone, a user can live-tweet a neighbourhood development to the world. That happened when Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) unwittingly covered the 2011 May US helicopter raid on Osama bin Laden’s den in Abbotabad, Pakistan. When Athar tweeted – Helicopter hovering over Abbotabad at 1 am (is a rare event) – he was not aware of the scale of the operations that he was tweeting about. That, however, was not the case when the Twitter revolution – Arab Spring – happened in 2011. Millions of users tweeted continuously sharing images of uprisings against governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Today live tweeting is the norm for sports events, TV shows and product launches.
Apart from the tweet, there is the re-tweet – when you only want to share but not comment on an event or development. The bigger a development, the more are the re-tweets. That’s what happened when a star-studded selfie by Bradley Cooper at the 2014 Academy Awards was tweeted by Ellen DeGeneres. That image was re-tweeted 3.34 million times. Just like Ray Tomlinson gave new life to @ in every email sent, Twitter has added # – hashtags – to any conversation. So much so that hashtags have become part of normal conversations today. Where there are celebrities, there are celebrity spoof accounts on twitter. Most importantly, Twitter has emerged as a huge marketing tool for a plethora of goods and services. It has also become a platform to articulate views for and against any development – be it political, economic or otherwise.
Despite all that it has achieved, Twitter with 305 million accounts is still way behind Facebook (1.6 billion) that is already over 10-years old. Even Instagram has 400 million accounts. More importantly, growth at Twitter has been stagnant over the last couple of quarters. Yet, the 305 million users share around half a billion tweets between themselves everyday. Now that it a decade-old, It remains to be seen how Twitter will manage over the coming 10 years. It would need more innovation to keep it relevant for both the world’s youth and celebrities. That’s a tough task in an ever-changing world.