Social Networks

Twitter: Open and By The Numbers

This morning, @biz (Biz Stone) and @ev (Evan Williams) kicked off Twitter’s first official developer conference, Chirp, with some facts and data and a stunning announcement related to the Library of Congress.

First, the numbers. There are 105.8 million registered users but 180 million monthly unique visitors to the website. The deduction: non-registered users read tweets. And we know that registered users read tweets primarily from other devices. Williams noted that Twitter is currently handling 3 billion requests a day; this API-driven traffic is equivalent to Yahoo, he said, noting that no other major service is this distributed.

“Open exchange of information has a positive impact on the world,” Williams said in his keynote. Reflecting that sentiment, Twitter streamed the event live. Moreover, the sessions are archived at for delayed viewing.

An even more significant reflection of that sentiment: Twitter is giving the Library of Congress the entire corpus of public tweets (think of the potential for watchdogging government and politicians).

Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition. I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data. And I’m certain we’ll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive.

Just before noon, @biz explained on the Twitter blog:

Over the years, tweets have become part of significant global events around the world—from historic elections to devastating disasters.

It is our pleasure to donate access to the entire archive of public Tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation and research. It’s very exciting that tweets are becoming part of history. It should be noted that there are some specifics regarding this arrangement. Only after a six-month delay can the Tweets will be used for internal library use, for non-commercial research, public display by the library itself, and preservation.

The six-month delay and non-commercial use are meaningful because they relate to potential revenue streams for Twitter, the company. But Twitter, the social engine, has responded to public interest pleas regarding access related to government and news. A big hurrah!

The final “open access” announcement relates to Google’s timeline search.  Google Replay will let us relive a real time search from specific moments in time. (GoogleWave, anyone?) Although Google Replay currently accesses fairly recent tweets, @biz wrote that “eventually it will reach back to the very first Tweets every created.”

Feel free to give Replay a try—if you want to understand the popular contemporaneous reaction to the retirement of Justice Stevens, the health care bill, or Justin Bieber’s latest album, you can virtually time travel and replay the Tweets. The future seems bright for innovation on the Twitter platform and so it seems, does the past!

Finally, one of the coolest artifacts to emerge from the event this afternoon is this information graphic created by Gerardo Obieta (@G_Obieta), a graphic designer who works for Weber Shandwick Minneapolis. He shared it with the world via Twitter and TwitPic.

Twitter on Paper

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By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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