Friday, October 01, 2010

Twitter - Truely a phenomenon.

“What’s twitter?” I used to ask. They use to say, “It’s a new micro-blogging site”. Honestly I didn’t understand the sentence in context, content and attitude. It had made me feel outdated. More irritating was the un-easiness because nobody had a clear answer for me. That was 2008.
I had talked to myself, “You have to jump into the water in order to learn swimming.” I opened my twitter account and named the account @lifeisbetter.
Almost immediately, I was clueless on twitter. I found twitter to have no head or tail, no start or end. How do I search for my friends, how do I create a network, how do I meet new people, how do I upload more photographs, who will read my tweets that takes a long time to compose in 140 characters, and so many such questions were left un-answered.
I didn’t return to twitter for a few months. It had left a bad taste because I couldn’t relate to the seemingly in-thing. Now that I look back, I realise that my mistake was in my pre-conceived notions. I was looking for social networking site in twitter, which it clearly is not. It is much to the power infinity more than that.
This post is about my discovery about this amazing phenomenon called Twitter. It is simply incredible.

Twitter takes you closer to your favourite (or hated) celebrities.
It was the celebrity quotient of Twitter that got me back to it. I could follow @gulpanag and read up on her opinions. She even responded to some of my tweets. I was elated and so would so many of us when we get to interact with our demi-idols, know their lifestyle, next movies, where-abouts and personal candid photographs.

Twitter is an excellent news channel
Thanks to one of @gulpanag’s tweets that I got introduced to @outlookindia, which opened a whole new world of relevant news being available to me to devour. I am currently following @outlookindia, @thehindu , @ietweet , @DNA , @BBCIndia among a few others who actively tweet about news and opinions from respected writers and journalists. Then there are individuals like @sonaliranade, who untiringly tweets about financial and political news from all around the world. It is such a pleasure to read up on varied topics on a single platform.

Twitter is the easiest to access
Twitter is an example of growth via sharing. Twitter is perhaps the only platform where over 50% access happens through third party applications. Twitter made it very easy to allow other websites and mobiles to access twitter. The result was that we have got better third party applications
with better navigation and UI to access twitter than the twitter app itself. Today I access twitter mostly through my mobile phone. I have downloaded a mobile application called ‘Pocketwit’ from Google labs for my windows phone. It is convenient, easy and multi-faceted. It has all the twitter features for reading / posting tweets and much more. In fact, as per latest data, 20% of new twitter users join via mobile device, as opposed to signing up on the web.

Twitter has led to many innovations and business models
Two years back, I had read an interesting one-liner for twitter. It said, “Twitter is the SMS of the Internet”. I found it to be an intelligent line, but not anymore. Today the line seems very shallow and narrow in its scope to define the juggernaut – twitter.
The twitter revolution came with a lot of associated products and services. Thanks to the total API support of Twitter programmers. Software developers easily came up with amazing products that compliment and supplement the twitter experience. The three most significant among them are: tiny URL sites like, photoblogging sites like twitpic, text-shortenning sites like Twitxr and 140it. The restriction of 140 characters has led to all these inventions.

  • One can shorten a long URL and post it directly to twitter along with a message by logging on to also let us know about how many people have clicked on the URL.
  • One can upload a photograph on Twitpic, which gets converted into a tiny URL and then one can write a message along with the tiny URL to post it directly to Twitter.
  • If the tweet is longer than 140 characters, sites like twitxr and 140it helps in shortening it using shorter words like r for ‘are’ etc. If the tweet is still longer after than 140 characters, then it stores the tweet in a tiny URL and lets the user post it directly to twitter.
It is amazing that how much we can now do with 140 characters. Imagine a news item tweet with a tiny URL, which you can click for details. You can choose to read more, or decide to let go. Even amazing are the mobile applications to access twitter. For instance, Pocketwit gives me all these features in one platform. You just need to put the long URL and it becomes a tiny URL. It connects to for the same without the mobile user knowing the complexities. Pocketwit allows me to shoot, convert that image into a tiny URL and post it to twitter. It also allows me to browse and post an existing image in the mobile. It is integrated to Twitpic in the back-end and photos are actually getting uploaded to twitpic and can be also viewed by logging onto Twitpic !
Twitter has led to so many innovations and applications that we have websites like whose complete focus is on the third party twitter applications.

Twitter is second only to Google !!
Twitter is doing over five times the search queries that Bing handles at 19 billion per month, and about 20% of those that mega search star Google processes. In a tweet, one can prefix # in front of an important word and these words help in searching the tweet easily. Twitter co-founder Mr. Williams said that Twitter does about 600 million queries per day and added to say that “the figures aren’t all apple to apples”. The search queries from third party applications and mobile application are not fully accounted for. How’s that compare against the major search engines? Working from ComScore figures from December 2009, we have the following data set:

  • Google: 88 billion per month
  • Twitter: 19 billion per month
  • Yahoo: 9.4 billion per month
  • Bing: 4.1 billion per month

To conclude, Twitter has been a true phenomenon not only for networking and publicity needs but also for socio-economic-political discussions, viewpoints and news. It has given a new meaning to sharing and collaboration. It is still nascent in terms of its use for advertising and promotion. I believe there is a huge scope for monetizing twitter to benefit human kind.
Great Job Twitter. Thank you Jack Dorsey.

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  1. This is an excellent article on Twitter. I particularly like your point, on the birth of new applications that have resulted from the rise of Twitter.

    Uncannily enough, I too have followed the same path to adopting, and now even preferring, Twitter over Facebook. My POV to add, if I may, is when I first logged onto twitter & Facebook, I thought of twitter as “old wine in a new bottle” that is because I compared it to RSS feeds.

    Something I always subscribed especially from websites that interested me. What Facebook & Twitter did was, they took RSS feeds, and gave it a social face. Everyone “subscribed” to Status Update or Tweets “feeds”.

  2. Thanks Colonel. I agree with you on the RSS analogy. I think there are lots to come by in terms of monetizing twitter without affecting the consumer experience... lot of things to learn from google on this.


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