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If you were born in the age before the internet, your definition of Twitter might just be "a series of short, high-pitched calls or sounds mostly associated with birds." However, that is not what twitter means in today's world of digital communication. Twitter (the digital definition) is "a free social messaging tool that lets people stay connected through brief text message updates up to 140 characters in length called tweets."
Why Was Twitter Invented
Twitter came about out as a result of both a perceived need and timing. Smartphones were relatively new when Twitter was first conceived of by inventor Jack Dorsey, who wanted to use his cellphone to send text messages to a service and have the message distributed to all his friends. At the time, most of Dorsey's friend's didn't have text-enabled cell phones and spent a lot of time on their home computers. Twitter was born of a need to enable text messaging to have a cross-platform capacity, work on phone, computers, and other devices.
Background - Before Twitter, There Was Twttr
After working solo on the concept for a few years, Jack Dorsey brought his idea to the company that was then employing him as a web designer called Odeo. Odeo had been started as a podcasting company by Noah Glass and others, however, Apple Computers had launched a podcasting platform called iTunes that was to dominate the market, making podcasting a poor choice as a venture for Odeo.
Jack Dorsey brought his new ideas to Noah Glass and convinced Glass of its do-ability. In February 2006, Glass and Dorsey (along with developer Florian Weber) presented the project to the company. The project, initially called Twttr (named by Noah Glass), was "a system where you could send a text to one number and it would be broadcasted out to all your desired contacts".
The Twttr project got the green light by Odeo and by March 2006, a working prototype was available; by July 2006, the Twttr service was released to the public.
The First Tweet
The first tweet occurred on March 21, 2006, at 9:50 PM Pacific Standard Time when Jack Dorsey tweeted "just setting up my twttr".
On July 15th, 2006 TechCrunch reviewed the new Twttr service and described it as follows:
Odeo released a new service today called Twttr, which is a sort of “group send” SMS application. Each person controls their own network of friends. When any of them send a text message to "40404", all of his or her friends see the message via sms… People are using it to send messages like “Cleaning my apartment” and “Hungry”. You can also add friends via text message, nudge friends, etc. It really a social network around text messaging… Users can also post and view messages on the Twttr website, turn off text messages from certain people, turn off messages altogether, etc.
Twitter Splits From Odeo
Evan Williams and Biz Stone were active investors in Odeo. Evan Williams had created Blogger (now called Blogspot) which he sold to Google in 2003. Williams briefly worked for Google, before leaving with fellow Google employee Biz Stone to invest in and work for Odeo.
By September 2006, Evan Williams was the CEO of Odeo, when he wrote a letter to Odeo's investors offering to buy back shares of the company, in a strategic business move Williams expressed pessimism about the company's future and downplayed the potential of Twitter.
Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and a few others gained a controlling interest in Odeo and Twitter. Enough power to allow Evan Williams to temporally rename the company "The Obvious Corporation", and fire Odeo's founder and team leader of the developing twitter program, Noah Glass.
There is controversy surrounding Evan Williams' actions, questions about the honesty of his letter to the investors and if he did or did not realize the potential of Twitter, however, the way the history of Twitter went down, went in the favor of Evan Williams, and the investors were freely willing to sell their investments back to Williams.
Twitter (the company) was founded by three main people: Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone. Twitter separated from Odeo in April 2007.
Twitter Gains Popularity
Twitter's big break came during the 2007 South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) music conference, when Twitter usage increased from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000. The company heavily promoted the program by advertising it on two giant plasma screens in the conference hallways, with streaming Twitter messages. The conference-goers avidly began tweeting messages.
And today, over 150 million tweets happen every day with huge spikes in usage occurring during special events.