Like many top sites, Twitter at first seemed like a rather stupid idea – a blogging site where each post had to be shorter than a single text message. However the enforced brevity freed us from spending time and effort drafting updates. As founders Dom Sagolla and Jack Dorsey put it, the idea was that tweeting should be “so simple that you don’t even think about it”. Breezy, throwaway tweets rapidly became a hugely popular way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues.
Back when Twitter launched in 2006, it wasn’t only the posts that were simple, but the platform itself. At launch, there were no such things as hashtags – even replies weren’t immediately implemented. And if you wanted to “retweet” a post, you had to copy and paste it into your timeline.
As Twitter has become more sophisticated, we’ve increasingly got on board with keeping things brief and succinct. A study at the University of the Philippines found that, in 2009, the average tweet was eight words longs. By 2012, this had dropped to five words.
Twitter has also gained legitimacy. Celebrities, big brands and services, from Larry the Cat to the BBC, all have their own Twitter feeds. Twitter is often the first port of call for customer service too, since social media feeds are normally manned by a human being.
With more than 500 million tweets sent each day by more than half a billion users, Twitter is a cultural phenomenon. However, the worry is that its popularity has plateaued. Company revenue has fallen short of expectations this year, and lately, shares have dropped as low as $14, from a high of $69 in 2014. Recently, the company has tried to get casual users more invested, with updates such as shuffling the order of tweets to put more interesting posts first on the feed – which just confuses the hell out of me – and adding live video-streaming capabilities.
Even so, some financial analysts see Twitter’s most likely fate as a corporate buyout. The question is which tech giant will end up acquiring the service and how cheaply.
Personally, I wish they would stop messing about with it and let it be. It is probably the platform I waste most of my day on but it is starting to frustrate me the way they implement changes. I have ended up having to go and search for people I was following yesterday but some headless entity within Twitter has decided now isn’t important to me anymore. No matter how many times I change my timeline back to chronological order they insist on changing it back to what they call my order of importance – but surely I should choose that order?