On 21 March 2006, Jack Dorsey sent out a message that simply read, "just setting up my twittr".
Six years later, the service has become one of the fastest growing social media networks in the world, counting celebrities, world leaders, media houses and millions of ordinary citizens (and bots) among its legions of followers. (200 million at the last count in April 2011; this number now is much larger)
Introduced as a 'microblogging' site, Twitter was essentially a service that facilitated constant status updates. Although it was first ridiculed for encouraging only the banal, Twitter quickly grew into a service that also become a lot more than just telling people what you were doing. Because what Twitter is all about is transmitting quick nuggets of information, and once you embrace that function, the possibilities are endless.
In India, Twitter first gained popularity when it was used as an effective method of getting news out during the 26/11 attacks, where the hashtag #Mumbai was used to great effect. The country's love affair with Twitter is only growing. The site Tech Wire Asia estimates that there are 12 million Indian users on Twitter, many of whom 'lurk' or do not actively tweet. However there are many individuals and brands who actively utilise the service to express their opinions, build brands, make contacts or simply reach out to people who would not be accessible otherwise.
The Indian twittersphere is an extremely vocal, opinionated and largely well-informed place. And among its users are prominent television anchors like Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt; politicians like Omar Abdullah, Sushma Swaraj and Sashi Tharoor; as well as authors like Chetan Bhagat. Add to that mix media houses, Bollywood stars, journalists, and users like Ramesh Srivats who have excelled at the art of being extremely witty in 140 characters or less, and you have a community that is as vibrant as you can hope to find anywhere in the world.
News is circulated and discussed, social movements are born, gossip is disseminated, gossip is killed and everyone has something to say to something else. Sometimes the conversation continues offline in the form of tweet-ups, where pictures are posted for re-discussion via twitpic or similar services.
Twitter is so influential in fact, that the Indian site Pinstorm, curated a list of the most influential Twitter personalities in India, is taken fairly seriously by the Twittersphere.
And that is the magic of Twitter. In a world where powerful computers can fit into the palm of your hand, it makes sense that one of the most successful social media platforms is all about communicating in 140 characters or less.
Twitter has become almost a knee-jerk reaction. That article outraged you? Tweet about it. Heard a weird noise in the night while you were minding your own business in Abbotabad? Tweet about it. Thrilled that Adele won that grammy? You know what to do.
Over the years, Twitter has matured and made an impact in the areas of politics, sports, media, and more. However their revenue model has generated a great deal of discussion.
According to The Next Web, "Recently, the company has been paying close attention to the different ways it can derive revenues from all those tweeters. Twitter has also recently added more languages and acquired blogging software maker Posterous.
However, with rising headcount costs (over 900 employees today, up from about 400 last year) and costly infrastructure and operations, the company is still reportedly losing a ton of money after its first 6 years in business."
Be as it may, however, no one can discount the massive influence of a service that allows only 140 characters or less. So here's wishing Twitter a very happy Birthday!