Twitter, undeniably addictive to at least some of its advocates, has only been around since early 2006. The co-founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, talked for eight minutes at TED about his product.
Twitter was originally invented as a means for sending “simple status updates to friends.” It allows you to say what you’re doing in 140 characters or less, with those people interested in you able to get those updates. According to Williams, Twitter “makes people feel more connected and in touch, sharing moments as things happen.” It allows your friends “to know what it’s like to be there.”
Twitter use is exploding. It’s now ten times bigger than it was at the beginning of 2008. According to this entry at Wikipedia, Twitter has 55 million monthly visitors.
Williams concludes his talk by noting that some Twitter users have used Twitter to enable real-time mass-action by armies of fellow Twitter users.
I”ll confess that I’m not a Twitter user (though I did set up an account due to the constant urging of a real-life friend, but I haven’t actually used it). I don’t think I’ll ever be a Twitter addict based on what I know about Twitter. I prefer writing in paragraphs rather than writing chopped up sentences. I don’t want real time commentary,even from my closest of friends–I’d rather you save it up a bit and then we spend quality time together exchanging our stories with more context and color. Also, I like to get away from my computer and phone for long stretches–I recharge by getting totally away from people. I’m also suspicious that many people are deluding themselves that their on-line contacts are true “friends”; we don’t have the that much cognitive horsepower. My suspicions are reflected in this humorous pie chart of the sorts of things that Twitterers are really up to.
None of this is to deny that Twitter might sometimes be useful, even possibly life-saving in times of national crisis. I suspect, though, that Twitter is mostly word fidgeting–an addiction seemingly important due to the powerful illusion that motion–doing anything–constitutes progress. I’ll admit that many important inventions were derided in the early-going (e.g., the telephone). I might be wrong when I demean Twitter as a serious mode of communication.
Writing about Twitter reminds me of a recent book in which each author attempts to capture his or her entire life in six words or less.
Without further ado, here’s that eight-minute speech by Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter.