How Ten Years of Twitter Has Changed Us

What was the world like before Twitter?

The hashtag/pound symbol built from nonpareils


Can you remember a time when a ‘tweet’ was just the sound a bird made or when a ‘hashtag’ was just an underused symbol on a dial pad? Nope, neither can we. Considering how much our everyday vernacular has changed, it’s not difficult to measure the impact of a decade’s worth of interaction with the social networking mega-platform Twitter.

The landscape of social media and news has also evolved considerably in the ten years since the birth of Twitter. The ability to tweet as world events are happening has transformed the way we report (and consume) media, not to mention the way we note the relevance of something in our own feeds (we won’t deny the use of a few sneaky hashtags in a caption if you won’t!)

To celebrate the birthday of Twitter, we’re taking a look at the turning points that made Twitter the pervasive social media outlet it is today.


MARCH 2006

Twttr, the creation of Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, arrives. The first “tweet” is sent on March 21 at 12.50pm with the phrase, “just setting up my twttr.”

In its early stages, the platform was meant to operate as way to broadcast a text message sent to a single number out to other friends. The name later changes to “Twitter”, as we now know the site.



The hashtag arrives. Chris Messina, who proposed the idea of adopting the hashtag, or “pound” symbol as it was previously known, as a way of sorting tweets into “groups” was originally rejected by Twitter: “[They] told me flat out, ‘These things are for nerds. They’re never going to catch on,’” but we now know the fate of said symbol was the complete opposite.



Terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba carries out a series of attack across the Indian city of Mumbai. Twitter is at the forefront of the on-the-ground reporting with users tweeting real time experiences as the events unfold, adding the hashtag #mumbai.



A photo tweeted by user @jkrums breaks the news fifteen minutes before traditional media outlets about a US Airways plunging into the Hudson River in New York.

“I just watched a plane crash into the hudson riv [sic] in manhattan,” the unsuspecting reporter tweeted.

The accompanying photo was the first of the scene, adding to the increasing use of Twitter as a ‘breaking news’ broadcasting platform.



Twitter plays a key role in helping activists in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia organise pro-democracy rallies. The mass movement marked by protests becomes known as #ArabSpring.

“Social media became a critical part of the toolkit for greater freedom,” observed Phillip Howard, associate professor in communication at the University of Washington in a study of the platform and its effects on the uprising.



The full, expanding influence of Twitter is uncovered: Twitter announces that there are 100 million monthly active users interacting with the platform globally.



The most shared tweet (since eclipsed by Ellen’s celeb-packed Oscar selfie and a One Direction tweet) is publish: President Barack Obama tweets, “Four more years” and exceeds 800,000 retweets.



The first papal Twitter account is launched by Pope Benedict XVI, with the accompanying tweet: “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”



The Web Summit conference in Dublin, that featured representatives from Time and Vice News, once again raises the much-debated subject of the role of Twitter in journalism, proving its continuing influence in the space of breaking news and journalistic authenticity.

“I’m not sure that the task of journalism has changed that much: we still send journalists to unearth stories and break news,” Matt McAllester, Europe editor for Time observes, “But Twitter is our competition, and we have faced up to that reality.”


MARCH 2015

Twitter acquires the new live video broadcasting service Periscope.



Direct messages are no longer limited to 140 characters.


MARCH 2016

The platform turns 10. Happy birthday Twitter!

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