All great inventions usually start with an idea; an idea that solves a certain problem, makes life easier and brings more value to our way of life. Such is the story of the birth of Twitter. Evan Williams, ex-Googler had a startup called Odeo, which was going to be a podcasting platform, but in —- when Apple decided to launch ITunes podcasting, the whole idea of Odeo seemed irrelevant. However, Evan, Biz Stone – another ex-Googler – and Odeo employee Jack Dorsey decided to create something called Twitter instead.
Fast forward 10 years later and Twitter is one of the greatest apps in today’ s society, with a population of 332 million active users and a fast growing demographic of the 55- 64 year age bracket, a percentage that had grown 79% since 2012. Twitter has grown into the equivalent of much of the world’s chattering class gathers. On Twitter, anyone can say anything to anybody—as long as they keep it under 140 characters. Just ask the group Kenyans on Twitter #KOT.
The app can be equated to the simplicity of, “Here’s what’s going to happen in the world. Here’s what’s happening right now. Here’s what’s going to happen in the world.”
With the first wave of usage around the tech early adopters, since most people hadn’t gotten used to the workings of the app (I included), the second wave saw a rise journalists and writers. A new way of helping people find their voice. With the use of hashtags to help trend various topics all around the globe, the app has been used as an influential tool especially in the media industry. In Kenya for example, most of the untold stories are able to get nationwide broadcasting all thanks to the power and freedom that twitter has given people to speak out.
So how has twitter faired in its first decade?
Twitter’s first decade has been full of near-death experiences. With a constant executive turnover,
declining growth numbers, technology that was notorious for crashing and a continuous generation of controversies involving user harassment, the social networking app has seen a tremendous amount of ups and downs for it to turn 10 on Monday, 21st March 2016.
- The app has seen its fair share of competition from more visual apps. This is seen by the 300 million users on Instagram and nearly 200 million users on Snapchat. As much as Twitter is highly reliable in getting information on what’s happening across the world, today’s society is a more visual lot. We would rather watch a 15 second video and get it over with than constantly follow a trending topic for 6 hours.
- Twitter is more of a delivery system of information feed as compared to Facebook, which is a more social app to connect with friends and family. Most of my friends didn’t even join Twitter until 2011-2012 stating that it was ‘too complex’.
Facebook always had an advantage over Twitter in that its network, at least in the beginning, was based on networks that already existed in the offline world, namely, people you already knew, friends and family. Twitter on the other had was more about following people you didn’t know based on what your interests were. This gave a huge jumpstart to Facebook’s popularity since this made the social networking experience approachable to almost everyone.
- It adds a human element to news. With broadcast stations delivering prime time or breaking news in more neutral tones, twitter gives news on the world’s happenings from a more personal perspective. Just look at the #CharlieHebdo attacks in Paris, the #PrayForParis trend which had seen multiple attacks on Paris, Syria and Nigeria on the 13th of November 2015 and Nigeria’s #BringBackOurGirls.
- It has however received a numerous amount of backlash with some of the most extreme cases of cyber-bullying and harassment to ever exist on the internet. The #GamerGate scandal that had a section of the gamer movement issuing vicious, graphic death and rape threats.
In an interview, C.E.O and co-founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey pointed out, “In the past when people heard about Twitter, they assumed that the way to use it was you had to tweet about something. I think more and more people are seeing it as, ‘I can just see what’s happening in the world. I can see what’s happening about any event.’ And the faster we make it for people to realize that, we grow this amazing daily audience around any particular event around the globe.
Then our work is to connect them to people they want to follow long term, and then our work is to convince them that actually you should talk about it, you should share something. We are a conversational medium around these live events. That’s the easiest way to get in. So we’re focused on strengthening that and simplifying that path.”
Regardless of the first tough years that the company has faced, Twitter remains hopeful of the years to come, thanking users in its birthday blog post for ‘making history, driving change, lifting each other up and laughing together every day.’