Twitter turns six
Twitter was created by a 5-member team, working under the banner of a start-up called Obvious in San Francisco. In its short history, Twitter has become an important marketing tool for celebrities, politicians and businesses, promising a level of intimacy never before approached online, as well as giving the public the ability to speak directly to people and institutions once comfortably on a pedestal. It is now available in 28 different languages and employs over 835 people.
“just setting up my twttr” – when Jack Dorsey tweeted this on March 22, 2006, he couldn’t have imagined that in six years, people across the world would be sending over 9420 tweets a second, as witnessed during Superbowl 2012.
Its use as an organizing tool, first in Iran during the disputed presidential election of June 2009 to disseminate information in the face of a news media crackdown, brought it new respect. And it continues to engage the political audience with as many as 40,000 tweets in an hour referring to Rick Santorum in one of the recent Republican nomination debates.
With unofficial estimates putting the number of Twitter accounts at over 350 million, Twitter is part of an elite group of social web start-ups that have flourished in recent years by rapidly attracting users. It took 3 years, 2 months and 1 day to hit the first billion tweets. Now it takes less than a week to clock that many.
But while peers like Facebook and Zynga have aimed for the public markets, Twitter is holding back. In the summer of 2011, Twitter raised $400 million from private investors. The fund-raising effort, led by DST Global, the investment firm headed by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, valued the company at $8 billion. In December, Prince Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia announced he had taken a $300 million stake in the company, representing roughly 3 percent, this valuing the company at around $10 billion.
But in many ways the journey is just getting started for Twitter. Long ridiculed for not having a business model in place, the company started to experiment with promoted trends, tweets and accounts. Twitter announced an expansion to the program as recently as yesterday.
While its balance sheet shows little sign of improvement in the near term, there’s no doubting Twitter will continue to play an important role in our lives in days to come.