Twitter is an online social networking service and micro blogging service (Micro blogging is a broadcast medium in the form of blogging. A micro blog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregate file size. Micro blogs “allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links”. These small messages are sometimes called micro posts) that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. It was created in March 2006 and launched that July. The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with over 140 million active users as of 2012, generating over 340 million tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day. It has been described as “the SMS (short or text messaging service) of the Internet.” Unregistered users can read the tweets, while registered users can post tweets through the website interface, SMS, or a range of apps for mobile devices.
Tweets are publicly visible by default; however, senders can restrict message delivery to just their followers. Users can tweet via the Twitter website, compatible external applications (such as for smartphones), or by SMS available in certain countries. While the service is free, accessing it through SMS may incur phone service provider fees.
Users may subscribe to other users’ tweets – this is known as following and subscribers are known as followers or tweeps (Twitter + peeps). The users can also check the people who are un-subscribing them on Twitter better known as unfollowing via various services.
Twitter allows users the ability to update their profile by using their mobile phone either by text messaging or by apps released for certain smartphones / tablets.
As a social network, Twitter revolves around the principle of followers. When you choose to follow another Twitter user, that user’s tweets appear in reverse chronological order on your main Twitter page. If you follow 20 people, you’ll see a mix of tweets scrolling down the page: breakfast-cereal updates, interesting new links, music recommendations, even musings on the future of education.
In June 2008, Twitter launched a verification program, allowing celebrities to get their accounts verified. Originally intended to help users verify which celebrity accounts were created by the celebrities themselves (and therefore are not fake), they have since been used to verify accounts of businesses and accounts for public figures who may not actually tweet but still wish to maintain control over the account that bears their name. Verified accounts can be identified by a white tick on a blue background, known as a verified badge, next to the user’s full name, on the profile itself or next to the name in search results.
Users can group posts together by topic or type by use of hashtags (Hashtags are words or phrases prefixed with the symbol #). Similarly, the “@” sign followed by a username is used for mentioning or replying to other users. To repost a message from another Twitter user, and share it with one’s own followers, the retweet function is symbolized by “RT” in the message.
Adding and following content
There are numerous tools for adding content, monitoring content and conversations including Twitvid (video sharing), TweetDeck, Salesforce.com, HootSuite, and Twitterfeed. Fewer than half of tweets are posted using the web user interface with most users using third-party applications.
A word, phrase or topic that is tagged at a greater rate than other tags is said to be a trending topic. Trending topics become popular either through a concerted effort by users or because of an event that prompts people to talk about one specific topic. These topics help Twitter and their users to understand what is happening in the world.
Trending topics are sometimes the result of concerted efforts by fans of certain celebrities or cultural phenomena. Twitter’s March 30, 2010 blog post announced that the hottest Twitter trending topics will scroll across the Twitter homepage.