Here's less than 140 characters for ya: trivial texts or not, every one's all a-twitter about tweeting. Twitter operates a free digital service site that blends social networking with the ability to post short messages (or micro-blogs) limited to 140 characters or less, commonly known by users as "Tweets." Twitter's service is designed for use on personal computers and via mobile devices, such as iPhone and BlackBerry smart phones. When accessed through the Internet, Tweets are published on a poster's personal Web page. Tweets can be restricted to select viewers, or viewed by anyone. Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone co-founded Twitter in 2006.
A phenomenon of sorts, the media is buzzing about Twitter. In its short life, the site's popularity has soared and its user base has grown exponentially. In 2010 the company announced that it had more than 175 million registered users, up from 55 million in 2009. The year before that, Twitter counted only 4 million total users.
Much of Twitter's success can be attributed to prominent politicians and celebrities, who use the service to communicate with constituents and fans. Oprah Winfrey famously joined the service with the all-capital-letters Tweet, "FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY" on her show, and in 2011 Charlie Sheen set the world's record for the fastest time to reach one million followers on Twitter.
Maintaining its standing as a dominant player in the digital media world requires constant innovation, and in 2011 the service introduced a major redesign, which resulted in the biggest changes to Twitter since its launch. Among the new attributes made available is the ability for users to post photos and videos along with Tweets. The redesign also includes new brand pages, separate from individual users' pages, that feature advertising and promotional material. The move is designed to better compete with Facebook and Google+ for online advertising dollars.
Despite these upgrades, Twitter has yet to post a profit, and the company has spent years searching for ways to monetize its users. In 2010 the company unveiled its eagerly anticipated advertising model. Called Promoted Tweets, the program lets businesses insert relevant advertisements into Twitter feeds after a user searches on Twitter for a specific keyword.
Since Twitter turned down a $500 million acquisition offer by social networking giant Facebook, it has been the subject of much speculation regarding a possible takeover by other tech superstars, including Apple or Google. However, Twitter eventually squelched those rumors by announcing that it is not up for sale.
The company has raised more than $150 million worth of funding since its inception. Venture capital backers include Spark Capital, Institutional Venture Partners, and Benchmark Capital. Newer shareholders include Insight Venture Partners and T. Rowe Price. – less