Five Years with Twitter

It was five years ago today that Twitter officially launched to the public (the very first ever tweet was sent on March 21, 2006). It was also five years ago today that I signed up for the service. It has become my claim to Twitter fame (such as it is) – I was the 985th person in the world to join! More than 600,000 people joined Twitter yesterday, which is pretty amazing when you consider that it took more than 16 months for the first 600,000 people to join!

When it launched, Twitter was actually Twttr (no vowels). At the time I was busy working on Podcast Spot. We were always paying attention to what our competitors were doing, and one of the biggest names in podcasting at the time was Odeo. I remember reading that they had launched a side-project named Twttr, and I remember thinking “this is dumb” after I checked it out. I mean the idea was neat, without a doubt, but I couldn’t fathom why they would be putting resources into Twttr rather than into Odeo. Anyway, as you know Odeo died and Twitter took off, so obviously they made the right decision!

I’ve written over a hundred Twitter-related blog posts over the last five years. My early entries seemed to be all about Twitter’s infamous fail whale and how the service struggled to stay operational, though I did immediately pick up on the ability to track topics. It was well into 2008 that they were still experiencing issues with reliability. That was also the year that I organized our first ever tweetup here in Edmonton (with help from Melanie and others). In June of 2008, I was down in Calgary for BarCamp and did a presentation on Twitter. After chatting with Wil at the bar afterward, I decided we should borrow the city hashtag idea from Calgary (they were using #yyc). The first #yeg tweet went out on June 20, 2008 (I wrote a bit more about that here). Exactly two years after Twitter launched, it purchased Summize, the search engine that now powers Twitter Search. That was a big deal, as it made the service much more useful. It also made it possible for me to start tracking the Edmonton Twittersphere, and I posted my first look at those statistics in February 2009. That seemed to give the local scene some momentum, and a month later I was at CTV talking to their newsroom about Twitter. That was the turning point in Edmonton, in my opinion. A lot of people joined after they ran the Twitter story, and I think the fact that CTV embraced the service gave it some legitimacy. The local Twittersphere has been growing in size and influence ever since.

I have always been a web user of Twitter. Over the years I have used apps on my mobile phones, text messaging, and I’ve dabbled with apps like TweetDeck and HootSuite, but my primary interface remains the Twitter website. I was particularly happy about #newtwitter, though I know a lot of you didn’t like the redesign (at least initially). It’s kind of incredible to think back to the time when Twitter didn’t have retweets, mentions were just replies, and hashtags were rare. The addition of lists was another thing that changed the way I use Twitter. I’m often asked how I can possibly follow nearly 6000 people and the answer is always “I don’t.” I use a combination of lists and search to pay attention to certain people and/or topics! I rarely, if ever, look at the timeline. It look me a long time to get over that – early on I definitely felt like I didn’t want to miss anything! Twitter is still largely the same as it was in 2006 (at least conceptually), but the changes that have been made have really had an impact.

I don’t know what Twitter will look like five years from now, but it certainly shows no signs of going away. I look forward to its continued evolution, and I hope Twitter continues to have a positive impact here in Edmonton!

Special thanks to Jeff and Sally for the Twitter birthday post today! And yes, I need to get on with updating stats!

  • Twitter does indeed have a positive impact on Edmonton. It’s in no small way thanks to you, and others early into the conversation, for making it a true community. Whenever I tell people to get on Twitter (and they’re make that disgusted, scrunched-up face) I always tell them about how Twitter brings people together in Edmonton and so much then happens in the real world.

    On a more Mack-note, do you think folks in other cities would even know some of the first people on Twitter there? I don’t think we can pin that on Edmonton’s size. I think it, again, comes back to the great level of conversation and interaction we have in Edmonton. And that, again, started with your tweets.

    • Good question! I wonder how many of the first thousand users are still active. You can see that list here: http://twitaholic.com/top100/joined/

      I think you’re right though, the level of conversation and interaction here in Edmonton is what sets us apart from a lot of places.