Witnessing Half a Decade on Twitter

This Monday, I’ll have spent five years on the microblogging service Twitter. Exactly how much of a commitment is that? Let’s do some crude math: starting with the baseline of 30,000 published tweets, (about 13 a day), I estimate this to be equivalent to writing about 4-8 books. In aggregate, that seems like a lot, but when one publishes on this micromedia network it’s hard to even fathom how it could add up.

To share how I got into this journey, let’s go way back to when I worked at PodTech, a fledgling social media network that pooted out. I did however work with some of the best in the industry, and I recall my colleague Robert Scoble coming by my cube proclaiming “You need to get on Twitter right away Jeremiah”, his eyes ablaze in geek-citement. To me, this was nothing new, as with every week, Scoble would come into the office telling me about the next greatest thing from his interviewing adventures. Yet this one had legs. It felt right. The conversation was small, there were just a few folks on from Silicon Valley, NY, a bunch of edgelings, in fact, I recall the top 100 list looking similar to the top 100 list of Google+ a few months ago, a cadre of mostly well read tech bloggers.

Over time, we saw it grow, and mainstream media celebs moved in, media companies, and brands. Spam started to happen, and we saw a strain on their service as fail whales emerged at great frequency –causing a migration to the ‘backup’ network on Plurk. Over time twitter continued to grow, we saw applications emerge, marketers jump on, and even political figures join into the fray. Things started to grow into a frenzy as there was a race to get to a million twitter followers between aplusk and news networks –a testament to the turning tide of people gaining power over larger corporations –and the the impact this tool had to regime change in distant countries that really don’t feel so far away now. While I could go on and on about what I saw, I’ll leave that to expert story tellers like Shel Israel, he captured the history so well in his book Twitterville, I’ll let you revisit his tome.

Now, on to the future. Where is Twitter going? As my colleague Charlene says, “Social media will be like air”. It will continue to be part of many of our digital communications. I expect automated devices to tweet on their own (from Puppy Tweets, Fridges, and Plants) it’ll spread to cars, appliances and even our heart monitors. Twitter themselves, has gone through a series of internal leadership changes, and has recently launched a new layout, and I expect them to roll-out more features similar to Facebook’s brand pages. In the end, Tweets will become a data layer, just a way to simply pass information, much how we rely on RSS, and then fade into the background as a cultural utility.

It’s been a fun five years on this network, and I look forward to the next 5, as social disappears into the background –and people surface to the front. Thanks Twitter, and all those that are using it.