We visit it multiple times a day, covet its approval and think about its 140-character nuggets of truth when its not around – it’s fair to say Twitter has consumed our daily lives in the nine and a bit years since its launch. But how far has the micro-blogging-service-turned-news-portal come?
As 2015 comes to a close and we get emotional about everything the past 12 months have brought, it’s time to recognise how the Facebook and Instagram rival is about more than just snooping on your favourite celebs and sharing every achievement with the world, no matter how minor.
1. There’s a very good reason why you’re restricted to 140 characters
Once upon a time, in a pre-WhatsApp era of flip-phones and the Nokia 3210, Twitter started out as an SMS-based service that let users send short texts to groups of friends. These early days of the social service shaped what was to come.
With single text messages capped at 160 characters, Twitter limited its messages to 140 characters, with the remaining 20 spaces reserved for usernames. Despite having ditched its SMS-based roots long ago, the cap remains as one of Twitter’s most defining features, well, at least for now. There have been rumblings the cap will be scrapped, but nothing has yet been confirmed.
2. Twitter didn’t create the hashtag
The hashtag might now be an intrinsic part of the social service and synonymous with the Twitter brand, but this wasn’t the first to make use of the context-highlighting standout tag. Used regularly in Internet Relay Chat as early as 1988 as a means of grouping users, Twitter’s hashtag has it roots in Flickr’s tagging system.
First used by technology innovator Chris Messina, and originally mocked as nerdy by Twitter’s founders, just like the first tweet (see below), the first hashtag wasn’t a classic either, with Messina dropping the #barcamp tag.
3. Dorsey sent the first tweet – and it wasn’t exactly “a classic”
just setting up my twttr— Jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
Co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first Tweet on March 21, 2006. The infamous words he uttered to bring this social giant to life? “just setting up my twttr”.
Despite not featuring a cat, meme, or cat-themed meme, this tweet has since entered the annals of infamy, being retweeted more than 64,000 times and favourited on some 44,000 occasions so far.
4. Katy Perry is the most followed person in the world
There’s no being upstaged by left sharks here. The cherry chapstick-loving pop princess has an unrivalled 78.3 million Twitter followers – take that Justin Bieber (68m) and Barack Obama (64.6m).
What makes Russell Brand’s ex so popular? Well, in the past few weeks she’s treated her global following to such gems as “Conciousness = creativity”, “When you feelin yo self all night & then see that you’ve had quinoa in your teeth the whole time”, and “I just tasted a wine that smelled like the museum I visited earlier” – all Twitter gold.
5. The most Tweeted emoji is the word of the year
It’s been a big 12 months for the crying with laughter emoji. Having been crowned the Oxford Dictionary’s 2015 Word of the Year despite, you know, not actually being a word, the mixed-emotions pictogram has now taken the mantle as the most Tweeted emoji in all the land.
Beating the hearty eyes smiley and crying emoji to the not-so-coveted title, the crying with laughter emoticon headlined a top ten that including a number of standards – heart, kissy smiley – and a few left field additions – clapping hands, fire emoji. Seriously though, where’s the smiley poo?!
6. Twitter was invented in South Park