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'One could change world w/ 140 chars'. Billions of voices are bricks building up Pyramid..HuffPost sold. Twitter also for sale?

By WcP.Watchful.Eye - Posted on 13 February 2011

Jack Dorsey (born November 19, 1976) is an American software architect and businessperson best known as the creator of Twitter.

Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone

’Odeo meets every morning to coordinate our deal. To keep things short, we stand up the whole time. Everyone, that is, except Rabble.’ - Dom Sagolla

Twitter, not for sale!


The best Twitter has to offer from music to politics, sport to science.. Twitter has become the people's voice on the eve of its fifth birthday.

Blame Stephen Fry. In Twitter the preening polymath found his true calling, sending out an ever changing and oddly riveting mix of self-promotion and stream of consciousness as he tweeted his every thought and photo. His thoughts on Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, a picture of a parrot, a call for charity in Sri Lanka, Stephen in a balloon hat, all mixed in with his Wildean wit: "Streets of London fantastically full of young people. Either it's half-term or truancy in this country is running wildly out of control." Millions came to watch, millions more joined in. You may scoff but we are all Stephen Fry now.

Twitter is five next month. There are now 190 million people using the micro-blogging website, sending 65 million messages of 140 characters or fewer around the world each day. Knockers may still dismiss the service as silly but Twitter – or some form of it – looks set to be with us for some time to come. For its legion of fans Twitter is part of a social media revolution that is reordering the way the world communicates, shaking up politics, business and social life and even, some argue, fuelling and co-ordinating historic upheavals from Iran and Tunisia to Egypt. The revolution will be twitterised.

Last week the Californian business received another, more concrete, recognition of its status. Google and Facebook are reportedly courting Twitter. The price tag for this still loss-making venture is put at $10bn (£6.24bn). Just two months ago Twitter was valued at $3.7bn after raising $200m in new financing. In the meantime investors have gone mad for all things social media and Twitter has become one of the hottest properties on the block.

The appeal comes because Twitter genuinely offers something new, says Douglas Rushkoff, author and media theorist. Twitter is "the first people's broadcast medium," he says. "You can do it now, it can go everywhere, and you don't have to sit with it. The best thing about Twitter is that it is not sticky the way things like Facebook are. I can throw out tweets without having to field a zillion emails or nurse some profile or deal with anything else. I can fling and not receive."

Twitter's first broadcast went out on 21 March 2006 when Jack Dorsey, a software engineer at a podcasting company called Odeo, sent a text message to a group of colleagues using a new system he had devised. "Just setting up my twttr," Dorsey wrote. It was the first tweet.

A year later Twitter was the hottest act at South by Southwest, a music and film festival beloved by tech people who like to pretend they aren't all about the money. During the event Twitter messages shot up from 20,000 a day to 60,000 a day. Twitter's founding trio, Dorsey and his colleagues Ev Williams and Biz Stone, were about to become media sensations.

Celebrity users included Fry, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga and Ashton Kutcher. Even Dame Elizabeth Taylor loved Twitter. Justin Bieber seemed to build an entire career off the site. Five years later they continue to love it. Only last week Lohan tweeted her innocence as she faced charges in a case involving theft from a jewellery store.

All this celebrity endorsement sent Twitter usage rocketing. The firm and its founders graced magazine covers and TV shows around the world. But we have been here before. Remember Second Life? The San Francisco company that set up a 3D virtual world enjoyed a similar moment in the sun. A fake U2 and a real Duran Duran played live on Second Life, Sweden opened an embassy, Reuters set up a bureau in cyberspace to cover the goings-on. The virtual future arrived and then just as quickly departed. Twitter has proved more enduring.

Some of the froth came off its image during the protests that surrounded the 2009 presidential election in Iran, dubbed the Twitter Revolution. Enabling "ordinary" people to broadcast in real time has also been seen by some as instrumental in the protests in Tunisia and Egypt. But this vision of Twitter as agent of social change is not without its critics.

Today's hot properties can soon lose their lustre. Myspace was once the buzziest social media firm on the planet, now it's sacking staff as rivals go on a hiring spree. "Platforms can be abandoned pretty quickly," says Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners. "Myspace shows that. But at the same time there is only one Twitter out there. Scarcity has a value and scale is hard to acquire."

Eventually Twitter will have to answer its biggest question: how is it going to make any money? Last year revenues are believed to have topped $45m and they are expected to double this year. But those are tiny sums for a company supposedly worth $10bn and Twitter made a loss last year after spending all that money on growing its business.

Twitter isn't the first fast-growing business without a coherent business model. Naysayers had (and some still have) their doubts about Facebook. Even Google struggled to find its money mojo; now it's one of the biggest cash generators in history. Last year Google's earnings topped $29bn.

In the end, says Paul Kedrosky, Twitterholic investor and author of the Infectious Greed blog, Twitter is worth whatever anyone will pay for it. Anyone paying attention should realise that is going to be a very big number, he says. The service has become the "ubiquitous fabric" of online real-time conversation and it would be extremely hard for another company to replicate that. "Twitter is the dial tone," he says. "It's transforming how we communicate."

And Twitter is making its way toward making money. The firm now offers sponsored tweets to advertisers and reportedly sells out every slot available. Last year the company reported that 20% of tweets – roughly 83 messages per second – contained a reference to a product or brand. It's not hard to see that there has to be money in there somewhere.

Huffington Post has been sold to AOL, Facebook is preparing to let staff sell $1bn in shares as it lines up a $60bn flotation, Groupon and LinkedIn look set to join the stock market too, making their founders billionaires. Twitter's future is more obscure. Many of its fans reacted angrily to news that it could sell out. Too much advertising could drive users away.

As its fifth birthday approaches sources close to Twitter say the firm doesn't want to sell. Right now it's managing its balancing act quite nicely. And anyway its investors think $10bn is just the start. No matter how things eventually turn out, no doubt we will read all about it on Twitter.

'One could change the world with one hundred & forty characters' - Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey.

Twitter was born about three years ago, when @Jack, @Biz, @Noah, @Crystal, @Jeremy, @Adam, @TonyStubblebine, @Ev, me (@Dom), @Rabble, @RayReadyRay, @Florian, @TimRoberts, and @Blaine worked at a podcasting company called Odeo, Inc. in South Park, San Francisco. The company had just contributed a major chunk of code to Rails 1.0 and had just shipped Odeo Studio, but we were facing tremendous competition from Apple and other heavyweights. Our board was not feeling optimistic, and we were forced to reinvent ourselves.

“Rebooting” or reinventing the company started with a daylong brainstorming session where we broke up into teams to talk about our best ideas. I was lucky enough to be in @Jack’s group, where he first described a service that uses SMS to tell small groups what you are doing. We happened to be on top of the slide on the north end of South Park. It was sunny and brisk. We were eating Mexican food. His idea made us stop eating and start talking.

I remember that @Jack’s first use case was city-related: telling people that the club he’s at is happening. “I want to have a dispatch service that connects us on our phones using text.” His idea was to make it so simple that you don’t even think about what you’re doing, you just type something and send it. Typing something on your phone in those days meant you were probably messing with T9 text input, unless you were sporting a relatively rare smartphone. Even so, everyone in our group got the idea instantly and wanted it.

Later, each group presented their ideas, and a few of them were selected for prototyping. Demos ensued. @Jack’s idea rose to the top as a combination of status-type ideas. @Jack, @Biz, and @Florian were assigned to build version 0.1, managed by @Noah. The rest of the company focused on maintaining, so that if this new thing flopped we’d have something to fall back upon.

The first version of @Jack’s idea was entirely web-based. It was created on March 21st, 2006. My first substantive message is #38:
oh this is going to be addictive

We struggled with a codename and a product name. “It’s FriendStalker!” joked @Crystal, our most prolific user. The userbase was limited entirely to the company and our immediate family. No one from a major company of any kind was allowed in. For months, we were in Top Secret Alpha because of competing products like the now-defunkt Dodgeball. The original product name / codename “twttr” was inspired by Flickr and the fact that American SMS shortcodes are five characters. We prototyped with “10958? as our shortcode. (We later changed to “40404? for ease of use and memorability.) @Florian was commuting from Germany, so in order to operate with him we secured a “long code”, or a full 10-digit phone number linked to a small-potatoes gateway. Twttr probably had about 50 users in the 10958 days.

I was following everyone on the system. We had an admin page where you could see every user. As Head of Quality for the company, it seemed like my duty to watch for opinions or issues from our users. This caused confusion, though, when family members of our team were suddenly being followed by a seemingly random person. Thus, Private Accounts were born. @Jack and @Florian created a means for users to mark themselves private, and we admins had the ability to tell who wanted to be private so we’d know not to follow them. Actual, real privacy with secure protection came a bit later. I’d say there were about 100 users when Private was invented.

Later Twttr Design The interaction model and the visual metaphor for the service were constantly in flux. The meaning of being someone’s “Friend” versus “Following” someone changed regularly. At that point, you could either get all SMS messages or get none. There was no Twictionary back then; data in the system were referred to as “posts” or just “messages”. The lack of clear terminology led to some pretty spirited debates leading up to the Spring of 2006.

We launched Twttr Beta on @Ev’s birthday. We could now invite a slightly larger circle of friends, but still excluding any large companies (with a few trusted exceptions within places like Google). I’ll never forget the family-friendly feeling of that day. We all knew that we were going to change the world with this thing that no one else understood. That day stands out in memory as the deep breath before a baby’s first cry.

Meanwhile, Odeo and the corporate board were at a tension point. Not only was the value of Twttr difficult to describe, the relevance of Odeo was declining monthly. Drastic cuts were recommended. One day in early May 2006, @Ev let four of us go: @Adam, @TonyStubblebine, me, and @Rabble. @Noah and @TimRoberts would later be asked to leave as well. It was a tough decision and huge shock to each of us. We all handled it differently. Looking back on it, I think Twitter allowed us to stay connected when we might not have otherwise been. After all, we weren’t even public with the site yet, so each of us continued to add value just by using it with each other.

Twttr, directly. During this transition, launched to the public. Still, very few people understood its value. At the time most people were paying per SMS message, and so wouldn’t Twttr run up our bills? Also, how were we supposed to use this thing and who cares what I’m doing? Each one of us original users became a kind of personal evangelist for Twttr, trying to get our coworkers and friends to use it. At this point, Obvious Corp was born as an incubator with Twttr as its sole project.

Twitter Friends@Jack was still just an engineer, and the service was only a few months old when the group acquired and re-branded. Back then, we had no character limit on our system. Messages longer than 160 characters (the common SMS carrier limit) were split into multiple texts and delivered (somewhat) sequentially. There were other bugs, and a mounting SMS bill. The team decided to place a limit on the number of characters that would go out via SMS for each post. They settled on 140, in order to leave room for the username and the colon in front of the message. In February of 2007 @Jack wrote something which inspired me to get started on this project: “One could change the world with one hundred and forty characters.”

Just in time for SxSW, @RayReadyRay rigged a very sweet Flash-based visualizer that ended up on display on the halls of the conference. I wasn’t working there, but I used to visit regularly to see how our baby was doing. I happened to be at the office in SF when the visualizer went live on site in Austin. I remember finding a bug just before showtime, as @Biz and @Jeremy talked over the phone. Everything miraculously fell into place by the time people filtered out of the sessions to see their comments floating along the hallway screens. Boom #1: Twitter won an award in the Blog category, and @Jack thanked everyone in 140 characters.

MTV Music Awards: Boom #2.

Apple WWDC 2007, and then TV, and then print and pretty soon Cable news: Boom #3.

@Jack became the CEO of a newly spun-off Twitter, Inc. during the Boom Times. People still didn’t quite “get it” but at least some people had heard about it. The team created permalinks and RSS feeds. @Blaine pushed for IM integration. Each major feature added tremendous gains in users, and in usage per user. Still small by social networking standards, Twitter delivered something immediate and vital that no other service could attain.

For a lot of people, the entire API launch was really the time when Twitter first left the nest. But that is another story, for another time.

Facebook and Google may bid for Twitter even though its founders have always said they would never sell the service.

Twitter is reportedly holding early-stage talks with Facebook and Google executives, over the prospect of them acquiring the microblogging service, valuing it as high as $10bn (€7.3bn) according to a report.

Sources at both Facebook and Google have told The Wall Street Journal that low level talks between the two companies and Twitter have taken place over recent months and this could result in the mico-blogging company being acquired even though its founders have always said they would never sell the service.

The talks are not believed to have gone far yet, but according to the report, the talks have led to Twitter being valued at $10bn, only two months on from the site being valued at $3.4bn after its last round of investment.

Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder, and Dick Costolo, the company’s chief executive, have repeatedly said the site it not for sale. However despite the introduction of its advertising product and promoted tools in 2010, the site is thought to have made a loss last year, despite revenues of $45m.

Analysts think that Twitter could at least be seeking to form partnerships with either Facebook or Google to spread its influence beyond its own network. It is also believed that this is not the first time that both sites have showed interest in buying Twitter – with previous acquisition rumours emerging in 2009.

Amid oppression in Egypt, Twitter’s founder stands up for freedom of expression. In Twitter’s latest blog post, titled 'The Tweets Must Flow,' Twitter founder Biz Stone outlines the company’s goal to 'keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.'

While some people Tweet about breakfast and the weather, others Tweet about events as earth-shattering as an Earthquake and as revolutionary as a country’s uprising, like the recent crises in both Egypt and Tunisa. Both country’s governments shut down shut down services like Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube to cut down on modes of communication during protests.

We turn to news platforms such as Twitter for real-time communication with our peers and the truth of what’s going on in the world from respected media authorities. Twitter enables every citizen in the world to access this kind of information with lightning speed. But with great power, comes great responsibility, and Twitter is defining its media position by standing up for freedom of expression and dealing with any bumps in the road with as much transparency as possible.

In Twitter’s latest blog post, titled “The Tweets Must Flow,” Twitter founder Biz Stone outlines the company’s goal to “keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.” With the open exchange of information available on Twitter, the company must address the practical and ethical impact of its content. But with millions of Tweets per day, Twitter cannot realistically review each one. Stone says the company has identified its responsibilities and limits; they remove Tweets that are illegal or spammy, but they will not strive to remove Tweets on the basis of their content.

Twitter is working with Chilling Effects, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and numerous schools including Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics. The project deals with issues like Copyright, Domain Names and Trademarks, Anonymous Speech and Defamation. In an effort to be as transparent as possible, Twitter submits all copyright removal notices to @chillingeffects and they are now Tweeting them from @ChillFirehose.

“We will continue to increase our transparency in this area and encourage you to let us know if you think we have not met our aspirations with regard to your freedom of expression.” - Biz Stone

Twitter has created a curated list @twitter/freedom-of-expression, so users can follow respected intellectuals and relative media sources to learn more about why it’s so important to maintain and promote this right.

Readers, bloggers sound off on Huff Post sale. Huffington has been facing a backlash over the sale - from readers worried about what it will mean for the future of the site and from unpaid bloggers who helped make The Huffington Post such a valuable property. “I am disappointed and expect that HuffPost will be just like any other mainstream media outlet soon enough, with advertisers and the bottom line taking precedence over exposing the truth,” wrote “Euranya.” “Why did you sell out?” a reader going by “bart4u” asked. “Your readers have made this site too and you made this decision without our feedback. I am going to miss my morning Huffington Post.”

WASHINGTON, Feb 12, 2011 (AFP) - When The Huffington Post was sold to AOL last Monday for US$315 million (S$404 million), its founder, Arianna Huffington, was feted as a new media pioneer. Not everyone is celebrating, however.

Huffington has been facing a backlash over the sale - from readers worried about what it will mean for the future of the site and from unpaid bloggers who helped make The Huffington Post such a valuable property.

Arianna Huffington's blog post on Monday announcing the sale to AOL has attracted more than 7,500 comments as of Friday, many of them bemoaning the purchase of the left-leaning news and opinion site by AOL. "I am disappointed and expect that HuffPost will be just like any other mainstream media outlet soon enough, with advertisers and the bottom line taking precedence over exposing the truth," wrote "Euranya."

"Why did you sell out?" a reader going by "bart4u" asked. "Your readers have made this site too and you made this decision without our feedback. I am going to miss my morning Huffington Post." "I don't think this move bodes well for progressives," said "cclaker." "SCnative" predicted a "slow downhill slide into corporate news mediocrity."

Others adopted a wait-and-see attitude. A few welcomed the acquisition. "We will just have to see if HuffPost stays progressive," wrote "PennsylvaniaHero." "I would hate to see them lose their identity." "On one hand, I want to kick my feet and scream corporate foul because I feel a certain sense of protectiveness towards this site," said "Twinite." "On the other hand... I get it! Very savvy move on both their parts."

A reader going by Andy Gaus raised the issue of compensating bloggers. "Now that the sale has been made, it's time to pay writers. No excuses," Gaus said.

The Huffington Post has attracted a strong following - nearly 25 million unique visitors a month - for its lively mix of news, entertainment, opinion and blogs submitted by academics, entertainment figures and politicians. Aside from the high-profile celebrities, thousands of ordinary writers have also contributed to the site since its launch in 2005, most of them for free.

The freelancers unit of the California Media Workers Guild said it was time for The Huffington Post to start paying these contributors and created a page on Facebook mockingly titled "Hey Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime?"

"AOL gave you $315 million: We're asking you to give a little back to the unpaid writers who built the Huffington Post," said the Facebook page, which has nearly 600 fans. In a blog post on the guild site, Lauri Lebo said the AOL deal "was built on the backs of hard-working writers who never saw a dime for their labor" and urged Huffington to "share some of her profits with the people responsible."

Jason Linkins, a political reporter at The Huffington Post, jumped into the debate with a blog post entitled "How The Huffington Post Works." He said The Huffington Post has many salaried employees like himself producing original content alongside bloggers "who flock to the site for a chance of being heard."

"We have hundreds of people who want to take something they've written and put it in front of potentially millions of people, instead of their Facebook friends or their Twitter followers," he said. Media critic Jeff Jarvis agreed that exposure is the currency for many of the unpaid contributors to The Huffington Post - including himself.


Photos courtesy of Famous Internet Entrepreneurs,, milomark /, dominic / Flickr, and Twitter

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  • "Easy to read and well-designed." - Colin (Arizona, USA; Apr. 22, 2009)
  • "Unique mix of news, photos and poetry." - Frasier (Virginia, USA)
  • " is an extremely interesting collection of news articles. It calls itself "A Window On the World". The site contains a wide variety of topics, all very informative and pertinent to life in today's world." - Cynthia (Massachusetts, USA; Aug. 07 2008)
  • "Wow. Cool." - Christopher (Melbourne, Australia; Dec. 10 2008)
  • "An interesting way to check out the wonders of our world." - Anthony (Ohio, USA)
  • "Nice site, especially the rss icon." - Daniel (California, USA; Sep 10, 2008)
  • "Good blog - Everything from news to photography. Very informative." - "explicitmemory" (Texas, USA)
  • "Very informative site by prose and picture..." - Jeff (Michigan, USA)

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