Twitter: Complete Guide — History, Products, Founding, and More

Twitter: The Complete History and Evolution of the Real-Time Global Messaging Platform

Have you ever wondered how Twitter grew from a tiny side experiment into one of the most important communications services in the world? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about Twitter‘s past, present and future – from its origins to its products to its controversies and influence on society.

I‘ll give you a full profile of the people, ideas and moments that built the global real-time messaging system used by hundreds of millions each day. You‘ll discover things you never knew about Twitter‘s history through data, images and analysis. Let‘s dive in!

The Origins: How Did Twitter Come to Be?
Twitter started from humble beginnings at a failing podcasting startup called Odeo. Odeo was dreamed up in 2005 by entrepreneur Evan Williams and engineer Noah Glass – early Internet pioneers who aimed to build the next big platform for listening to podcasts.

But with the introduction of Apple‘s iTunes dominating podcast listening, Odeo struggled to gain users and needed a new direction. According to early employee Ray McClure, Glass and Williams held brainstorming sessions in early 2006 to generate fresh ideas for capitalizing on the rise of mobile and messaging.

They landed on an idea: merge aspects of blogging, status updates and text messaging to let people share quick updates about their lives to a group from anywhere. Williams and Glass recognized this could create a compelling and useful social experience on mobile devices.

This idea became known as Twttr in prototype form when Odeo engineer Jack Dorsey brought it to life as an SMS-based status update service in March 2006. Dorsey, who had become interested in updating friends about what he was doing via live messaging, sent the very first tweet on March 21 reading "just setting up my twttr."

The Concept Sparks to Life

The First Tweet Ever Sent

Jack Dorsey sent the first tweet ever on March 21, 2006.

Dorsey explained that the concept for Twitter perfectly captured what he sought in a minimal mobile status update app: "We came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’."

Over the next 6 months the name evolved from Twttr to Twitter as the product officially launched in July 2006 as its own separate service for groups to share quick, text-sized updates.

So in the beginning, Twitter was about enabling real-time life updates and conversations on-the-go before smartphones were ubiquitous. The idea tapped into our human desire for connection and sharing – what your friend is up to, what‘s happening around you.

But no one quite knew the explosive growth and global importance Twitter would soon achieve as it harnessed mass real-time communication.

Twitter‘s Surging Early Growth Period

In its first year, Twitter gained traction primarily with early adopters in tech circles as an SMS-based system for short status messaging. But growth took off like a rocket in 2007 – the year Twitter transformed from niche mobile experiment into full-blown cultural sensation.

Let‘s analyze the standout numbers showing its rapid user adoption:

YearTotal Tweets (Per Day)Registered Users
July 200620N/A
2007400,0001 – 2 million
February 200850 million3.5 million
February 200950 million6 million

Twitter‘s tipping point arrived in March 2007 at South by Southwest (SXSW), the massive tech, film and music festival in Austin, Texas. Twitter became the breakout app hit of SXSW as attendees raved about using it to follow event updates, comment on sessions and share insider commentary in real-time.

The platform saw usage spike from 20,000 tweets per day to over 60,000 daily tweets over the course of the event – a marker of its first step into the mainstream.

Twitter Traffic Growth Chart

Celebrities Join the Conversation

Twitter was no longer just a curiosity among software developers – it crossed over firmly into pop culture and social prominence. Mid 2007 saw famous figures from entertainment to business begin adopting Twitter as power users and trendsetters, driving adoption by everyday fans.

Some major celebrity sign-ups included:

  • Musician Lily Allen (April 2007)
  • Actor Stephen Fry (May 2007)
  • TV host Oprah Winfrey (April 2007)

Oprah in particular skyrocketed interest in the platform through a May 2007 contest awarding flights and limo rides for life for whomever signed up the most Twitter followers – spotlighting the compelling incentives of social clout.

By 2008, it became almost essential for public figures and rising stars to establish a Twitter presence allowing intimate fan access. The platform gave birth to the concept of Internet "microcelebrity" – leveraging Twitter‘s broadcast reach wasn‘t just for A-listers anymore. Anyone creative or funny enough could build huge followings themselves from zero.

Who Really Founded Twitter?

Given Twitter‘s runaway early viral success, who exactly kicked it all off? Who deserves the coveted status of Twitter founder? Along with Jack Dorsey sending the first tweet, three other key creative minds collaboratively established the foundation for Twitter‘s transformational rise:

Evan Williams – The seasoned entrepreneur who started Blogger served as Twitter‘s first CEO, leveraging past scaling experience.

Noah Glass – Odeo co-founder, invented the original concept for Twitter features alongside Williams as inside employees confirm.

Biz Stone – Brought in creative direction setting Twitter‘s friendly, humanistic brand identity from logo to core product values.

While Dorsey prototyped the SMS status update service and sent that inaugural tweet, Williams and Glass supplied the overarching vision pulling from the best ideas in social sharing. And Stone shaped the ethos behind Twitter‘s design and user experience driving growth.

Leadership and Funding Evolutions

Still Twitter‘s success led to internal power struggles about who really controlled decision making. Dorsey was replaced as CEO in 2008 by Evan Williams with support of the board. Williams had more infrastructure scaling know-how to guide expansion, but clashed repeatedly with Dorsey over product direction.

These conflicts caused struggles keeping up with accelerating usage, resulting in "fail whale" outages displaying capacity overload issues. Critics wondered if the company could properly stabilize technology and staffing to support spiking traffic.

Despite uncertainty, top investors bet billions on Twitter‘s potential…

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