21.03.2016 Debate, discussion and THAT dress: Ten years of Twitter

Today, 21 March 2016, marks the 10th birthday of the online social networking site Twitter. An idea that began in a “day-long brainstorming session” has grown into a multi-billion dollar business with more than 330 million users worldwide. Here we celebrate the milestones and moments that have defined a decade of Twitter.

The early years

Co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet on 21 March 2006. Little did Jack know that ten years on, Twitter would be the second most popular social networking site in the world.

Twitter 1

2007 saw the debut of the hashtag – #. The concept was first proposed by Chris Messina as a way to filter out all the noise on Twitter and allow users to focus on certain topics. A hashtag is a hyperlink of a word or phrase, which allows topics to be grouped together to be easily searchable; this can be relevant for news, politics, entertainment and sport.

twitter 2

There has always been controversy about hashtags, with many disregarding them due to overuse or incorrect usage. However, the hashtag has proved hugely popular, allowing global users to come together in a discussion about a particular trending idea or topic, and has even spread to rival platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Using hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, #BostonStrong, #JeSuisParis and #MalalaDay has helped create a strong awareness of important news stories and societal issues.

In 2008 the Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars and found ice. A groundbreaking discovery like this is usually announced via traditional media, but this news was first released via a tweet from the Mars Phoenix Twitter account. What was one small tweet for Phoenix was one giant leap for social networking.

Mars

Growing and developing

2012 saw the introduction of the little blue bird that we all know and love today. This simplified logo allowed Twitter to project its visual identity without the constraint of language.

Bird logo

In 2013, Twitter launched Vine, a short form video-sharing service where users can share six second looping video clips. This is a similar concept to the limited 140-character tweet, which aims to enhance the creativity of its users. Some of the most popular vines created in the past three years include What are Those?, Why You Always Lying? and Duck Army.

The most retweeted tweet ever came from Ellen DeGeneres, who posted the Oscar selfie during the Academy Awards in March 2014. This tweet gained an impressive 3.3 million retweets, alongside 2.1 million likes.

Ellen

In March 2015, Twitter announced the acquisition of Periscope, an app that allows users to share and experience live video straight from their mobile phone. Similar to Vine, Periscope is the perfect complement to Twitter as it allows instant global updates from users.

Periscope

One trend that tore the Twitter community in two was #TheDress, a photo of a dress that became a viral meme in early 2015. There were over 10 million tweets mentioning the dress and the dispute over whether it was blue and black or white and gold.

dress

Sadly, 2015 saw a number of international traumas, sparking millions of conversations via Twitter. One of the most popular hashtags was #JeSuisParis in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

paris

The outpouring of support and emotion via Twitter demonstrated to the Parisians that the world was standing by them through such a challenging time.

The future

Twitter has recently made a few changes in an effort to attract and engage new users. ‘Moments’, which allows users to find the day’s ‘best’ entertainment, sport or news stories along with the most relevant tweets collated in one place, was rolled out in the UK last December. It allows users to follow developing stories from their beginning, and is accessed via clicking a new ‘lightning’ tab. Last month another new option was introduced that allows users to change their timeline function to prioritise tweets they feel are more relevant, instead of the traditional reverse-chronological order. One, very controversial, modification Twitter is rumoured to be considering is an increase of its character count to 10,000 characters. So far it remains just that, a rumour, but with Twitter under pressure to increase revenues and attract and engage users, it can’t be dismissed completely.

So, happy birthday Twitter, and here’s to another decade of debates, discussions and dress-based controversy!

Look out for more Brighter blogs celebrating ten years of Twitter throughout this week.

We’ve written extensively about Twitter on our blog. Here is a selection of some of our recent entries:

Twitter: The timelines they are a-changin’

Twitter verification: The power of the little blue tick

Super-sized tweets; Is Twitter set to extend character limit to 10,000 to expand its user base?

Meet Moments, Twitter’s latest move to attract and engage new users

Brands: Are your social media policies fit for Twitter?