Twitter your Life Away

Posted By BrokenClaw on February 13, 2009

Twitter.comTwitter is a relatively new social networking tool of the Internet which popularized micro-blogging. The main purpose is to keep friends connected, by letting everyone know where you are and what you are doing. Like other services, it depends on a technology known as SMS (short message service), which is basically a text message that can be sent and received via most modern cell phones, in addition to the website. The difference is that twitter messages, called tweets, are sent to a server, which forwards the messages to multiple receivers at once. To receive a particular person’s tweets, you must first sign up to follow them. This mass message system is called a feed.

The term feed is a general description of the process whereby a website or Internet service automatically sends data to you, rather than you going and getting it from them. Another example of a feed is a podcast subscription, where the website feeds the podcast out to the subscribers, using a technology called RSS.

As with many new technologies, Twitter made its first inroads with tech enthusiasts. Twitter became popular at technology conferences, where groups of friends could see where everyone was, and make plans to meet, without having to make multiple phone calls or to send multiple text messages.

The tweets themselves are limited to a length of 140 characters — about one sentence — which is why it is often described as micro-blogging. Users become adept at conveying their thoughts in short sentences and phrases. Twitter is often derided as a waste of time because the service encourages a lot of inane conversation, like telling your followers what you had for lunch. However, it has also been lauded for its dissemination of information during breaking news stories.

Besides the public feed, Twitter also has an instant message feature for private conversations.

Unlike some other social networking sites, creating a Twitter account is very simple on the Twitter.com website. The original intent was to connect groups of friends and acquaintances, both in personal life and in business. However, with Twitter, the connection process is not mutually inclusive. In other words, its possible to follow a person’s twitter feed, without them following yours. As a result, when famous people create a Twitter account, their intent is to have as many followers as possible, because it’s free publicity. Of course, they have no intention of ever following your tweets. In the tech world, it became a bragging contest to see who could get the most followers on Twitter.

Eventually Twitter was noticed by mainstream media, and soon all the national news services, interactive TV shows, and political campaigns decided to create their own Twitter accounts. Entertainment and sports celebrities, too, jumped in. By 2009, Twitter had become pervasive in all aspects of mass media. You can’t watch a news broadcast without someone or something reminding you to follow their Twitter. The difference is that, in the original design, the appeal was that the tweets were actually being typed by the actual person. So even if you didn’t know someone personally, you felt as though you were getting a personal communication from them. With celebrities and mass media, you never know who is actually doing the typing.

Ironically, to the original techie users, the rapid growth means that Twitter has lost its luster. Whereas it was once a secret club for people in the know, now that it’s been accepted by the masses, and by mass media, it’s lost some of its cool-ness factor.

The basic service on Twitter.com has spurred the creation of an abundance of third-party applications which use the Twitter feed to make it searchable, more manageable, and compatible with other web services like Facebook.

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