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Twitter’s Top Ten Defining Moments

Posted on the 09 September 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Twitter’s top ten defining moments

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Twitter now has 100 million active users – that’s people logging in and using the site at least one month – CEO Dick Costolo has announced. There are now over 230 million tweets per day so it seems like a good time to pause, reflect, and remember some of the moments that have made the sometimes vacuous, often compelling and always entertaining microblogging site the phenomenon that it is.

  • 1. Osama Bin Laden killed on Twitter. Well, not quite, but when user @ReallyVirtual from Abbottabad in Pakistan tweeted “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event),” he didn’t realize that he was inadvertently commentating on the climax of the decade’s biggest manhunt. His subsequent tweet “A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt … I hope it’s not the start of something nasty :-S” may have been the first time a world-historical news story was broken with an emoticon.
  • 2. Beyoncé gets pregnant; world gets excited. Of course Twitter isn’t just about important geopolitical news stories: it’s mostly about celebrity gossip. And gossip doesn’t get any celeb-ier than Beyoncé’s announcement at the VMAs last month that she was expecting a baby. The news generated a head-spinning 8,868 tweets per second, which has all sorts of interesting implications for advertising and media in general, but essentially is just an insane amount of tweeting.
  • 3. Hudson plane crash: Twitter got there first. These days we almost take it for granted that Twitter is the best place to follow breaking news, but the world first woke up to the site’s potential for real-time scoops when @jkrums posted this now-legendary photo from the scene of a plane crash in January 2009.
  • 4. There’s a riot goin’ on. And now Twitter is at the heart of modern news-gathering. A brilliant recent illustration of this was Guardian journalist @PaulLewis’s on-the-spot coverage of the riots in London and Birmingham. Riots that were, of course, in large part organised via social media.
  • 5. Twitter caused the Arab Spring. OK, maybe not, but the service certainly played a major part in organising activists in Egypt and elsewhere, allowing them to disseminate news despite state-controlled traditional media. ‘Revolution 2.0’ as some have called it.
  • 6. Ashton beats CNN. ‘How many followers do you have?’ is obviously the first question any of us now ask when meeting a new friend, potential employee or love partner, but sadly few can compete with the giants of the Twitterverse. The online popularity contest reached its zenith with Ashton Kutchner’s much-publicised race against CNN to be the first to reach one million followers. Ashton won, and he never looked back (not even when Britney Spears overtook him).
  • 7. @Oprah gets on board. It was only a matter of time, but when America’s most influential tastemaker joined Twitter, it was clear that microblogging was big news. Oprah’s first Tweet was delivered at ear-shattering volume: “HI TWITTERS,” she blared. “THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21ST CENTURY.”
  • 8. Twitter goes green for Iran. Twitter does occasionally do some good for the world, too. The campaign of solidarity with Iranian protesters that saw thousands of tweeters add a badge to their profiles in the wake of the 2009 elections may not have sparked a revolution, but it was still a powerful way of raising awareness about what has happening inside the country.
  • 9. Twestival raises over $400k. In a similar way, charity @Twestival showed the potential of Twitter to promote good causes, using the site to organize and cover events in over 175 cities in 2010 and raise money for development charities. The campaign will be even bigger in 2012.
  • 10. Ryan Giggs exposed. The Manchester United player had won a High Court injunction to keep stories about his affair with Imogen Thomas out of the press, but Twitter was having none of it. Thousands of users named and shamed him, the situation finally becoming so absurd that MP John Hemming broke the injunction in Parliament. You can run from Twitter but you can’t hide – just ask Osama bin Laden.

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