by Tom Barry
Social networking website Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday today.
The micro-blogging site, which enables users to follow the antics of friends and celebrities via posted updates known as tweets, was founded in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, and has since grown from the simple idea of an individual using an SMS service to communicate with a small group to being one of the most popular forms of communication in the world and is today estimated to have over 200 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day.
Not simply confined to small groups, Twitter is now used by large corporations and governments to introduce and gauge opinions on policies and as well as celebrities to keeping in contact with their fan base. It has also been credited, along with fellow social networking website Facebook, with aiding political reform and revolution where press freedom is strictly limited.
Singer Lady Gaga is the most followed Twitter user while US President Barack Obama is the most popular political figure currently “tweeting”.
Famous “tweets” (a message with 140 characters or less, posted on the site to let followers know what’s happening) which have been posted on the site include a message from Mr Obama when he “tweeted” a message of thanks after his presidential victory in the US in November 2008: “@BarackObama – We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. Thanks.”
The website, however, is not popular with everyone. Actor Robert De Niro has spoken openly about why he won’t be seen “tweeting” anytime soon:
“My young relatives are into everything, so they show me. I use the computer, but Twitter’s not something that I’m into. I think it’s great, and it’s not that I don’t understand it, but in a way, I don’t get it and that’s okay,” De Niro said earlier in the week.
The company is thought to be worth $10 billion, with web rivals Facebook and Google believed to be very interested in jointly purchasing it.