Twitter's Birthday: Six Years Later, The Revolution Has Just Begun

Opinion

By : Subscribe to Michael's | March 21, 2012 11:14 PM IST

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The explosive growth of social media over the last five years has earned many young entrepreneurs a whole lot of fame and fortune, and in the case of Twitter, rampant success has firmly positioned the micro-blogging dispatch service as a pivotal technology of any modern society.

Just six years ago, on March 21, 2006, co-founder Jack Dorsey published the very first public tweet to the world. But little did Dorsey know that the 24-character snippet of text would be just the beginning of a worldwide revolution.

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The years since unleashing the first tweet ever, Dorsey has led Twitter to extraordinary heights. The social network has garnered 300 million users that are collectively tweeting one billion tweets every 4-5 days. To boot, the impact of tweets continue to grow. The quick rise of Twitter's popularity didn't come without skepticism concerning the impact of tweeting.

Just over one year ago, Malcolm Gladwell, the famous social-science writer, publicly scrutinized the service when he boldly claimed that "the revolution would not be tweeted." In a essay in the New Yorker, Gladwell explained why he thought social media woud not be able to provide what social change had always required.

"The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That's why you can have a thousand 'friends' on Facebook, as you never could in real life," said Gladwell. "It's terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism."

Gladwell was promptly proven wrong. A few months later, after the Arab Spring had reached an all-time high, a study from the University of Washington was published suggesting that tweeting and other forms of social media played a "central role" in leading up to the revolutions that toppled dictators ruling over Tunisia and Egypt.

Twitter and other social media services were critical to demonstrations that occurred during the Arab Spring, such as this one in Cairo's Tahrir Square. (PHOTO: REUTERS)

"After analyzing more than 3 million tweets, gigabytes of YouTube content and thousands of blog posts, a new study finds that social media played a central role in shaping political debates in the Arab Spring," said the UW News. "Conversations about revolution often preceded major events, and social media has carried inspiring stories of protest across international borders."

The New York Times affirmed the power of Twitter, too, after the Occupy Wall Street movement began several months after that. "Social media has played a vital role in the Occupy Wall Street movement since it began as a Twitter experiment in July, when the anticonsumerism magazine Adbusters posted a suggestion for a Sept. 17 march in Lower Manhattan," wrote Jennifer Preston, a reporter for the Times. "And over the last two months, protesters used cellphones and social sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to spread their message around the world."

While the micro-blogging platform has helped activists around the world organize, the real revolution -- The Twitter Revolution -- has only just begun. Twitter's advertising revenue is due to triple by 2014 according to eMarketer statistics. In addition, the company has been gobbling up smaller companies in a variety of forms. Twitter recently bought Posterous, Summify and TweetDeck.

But while the company continues to expand and grow its user base, it's also losing large sums of cash. Gawker reports that Twitter is still trying to become cash positive.

Regardless, it seems appears that Twitter has become a staple of modern societies. The ability to dispatch information on a whim has come to represent much more than the ability to express one's self. It has also given people the ability to share and exchange ideas at a faster rate than ever before.

On Twitter's sixth birthday, it's evident that the infant company has already grown into a colossal force. While it's apparent that Gladwell was wrong about tweeting the revolution, I'd go so far as to say many others have underestimated the power of this technology. Not only will the revolution be tweeted, the revolution is tweeting.

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