When was Twitter created? Imagine a scenario where you’re gainfully employed but spending your nights and weekends working on a side project. It’s just something you’ve been mashing together in your free time with a few friends at work.
Now, pretend to visit yourself five years into the future and see that your little side project turned into one of the biggest communications technologies of the last 100 years. This is the history of X (formerly Twitter).
When was Twitter created?
What started as a simple side project for a podcasting platform became a social network superstar. Twitter had humble beginnings as a status update feature of Odeo, but quickly became a standalone service that offers social networking, online news, and microblog services.
The origin of Twitter starts with Evan Williams and Noah Glass. The two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs came together to create Odeo, a podcasting platform that would eventually become obsolete thanks to Apple iTunes. This didn’t stop Evan Williams from successfully growing Blogger, which led to a multi-million dollar sale to Google in 2003.
Meanwhile, a side feature of Odeo was set to become the latest microblog and social network platform. Known first as Twttr, the service allowed users to send short messaging service, or SMS, to groups. Six months later, the name was changed to Twitter.
Twitter is now known as a social networking and online news site. It offers easily digestible content and allows you to search for and follow friends, celebrities, and business accounts. It’s been described as a marketing tool, amateur news reporting platform, and social messaging service. In 2020, had over 5,500 employees and total assets over $13.3 billion
The Founding of Twitter: How It Happened
Evan Williams and Noah Glass worked together at Google before deciding to leave and become co-founders of Odeo. Evan Williams also brought along another coworker, Biz Stone, to work on the project. Jack Dorsey had a chance encounter with Evan Williams and decided to reach out. He was added to the Odeo team.
Unfortunately, the launch of iTunes, with its podcast feature, made the Odeo venture obsolete and struggling to get off the ground. Twttr was created in 2006 to offer SMS status updates. Users could use the SMS short code “40404” to send updates to a small group.
The South by Southwest convention became a key moment in the growth of the service. During the Austin, Texas conference in March 2007, the number of daily tweets grew from 20,000 to over 60,000. The number of users and value of the company climbed significantly after that critical conference.
Twitter Achieves Explosive Growth
Twitter was now on the cusp of its biggest growth spurt. The 2007 South By Southwest (@sxsw) Interactive conference saw a huge explosion of Twitter usage. More than 60,000 tweets were sent per day at the event. The Twitter team had a huge presence at the event and took advantage of the viral nature of the conference and its attendees.
Twitter had its fair share of growing pains during its formative years. Twitter’s user base grew at astounding rates and quite frequently the service would be over capacity.
When servers overloaded, an illustration by artist Yiying Lu (@YiyingLu) appeared on the screen. The illustration featured a whale being lifted out of the water to safety by eight birds. The Twitter team used this image because they thought it symbolized the acknowledgment of the problem and that they were working on it. This error page went viral within the Twitter community and soon was dubbed the “Fail Whale.”
Is It a 140-Character Limit or 280-Character Limit?
The reason Twitter imposes a character limit on tweets is that it was originally designed as an SMS-based platform. In its early days, 140 characters were the limit that mobile carriers imposed with SMS protocol standards, so Twitter was creatively constrained. As Twitter eventually grew into a web platform, the 140-character limit remained as a matter of branding.
In 2017, however, Twitter decided that the 140-character limit was no longer relevant in the smartphone age and it increased the tweet limit to 280 characters over minor protestations. Most tweets, the company explained, hover around 50 characters; when people needed more characters, they simply sent more tweets. The character increase was designed to help Twitter users spend less time condensing their thoughts and more time talking.
New Owner, Less Staff, New Name
In October 2022, businessman Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion after a turbulent purchase process in which Musk tried to back out, citing the aforementioned bots. Eventually, however, the deal closed.
Musk’s influence on Twitter was immediate and dramatic, as he laid off a lot of the staff who kept the platform running. The site and app started having regular issues, reports of bot activity increased, and user moderation plummeted.
Twitter also introduced a paid subscription, Twitter Blue, which granted payers a variety of benefits, including a much larger character limit, the ability to edit after posting, and a higher priority in the system’s algorithm (that is, their replies appeared ahead of other users in threads). Most controversially, Twitter Blue checks replaced the legacy verification system, opening up the risks of impersonation and even more misinformation.
These and more issues led to the advent of a variety of Twitter alternatives. Some include Instagram Threads, Hive Social, and Blue Sky.
In 2023, Musk announced that the long-used Twitter name was going away. The new name and logo, X, then replaced the iconic bird on the website.
How Was Twitter Founded?
On March 21, 2006, Twitter emerged from the ashes of another startup, Odeo. Evan Williams, flush with cash after agreeing to Google’s GOOGL acquisition of his last startup, Blogger, agreed to enter a business venture with his neighbor, Noah Glass.
The two worked on a platform supporting what they saw as the new radio, podcasting. Leaving Google and taking one of his co-workers and friends, Biz Stone, Williams secured funding and began work on the podcasting platform, Odeo.
Along the way, a chance encounter led to a new employee, Jack Dorsey. Dorsey had been working in a coffee shop, writing basic code for a ticketing company, when Evan Williams walked in. Recognizing the minor Silicon Valley celebrity and eager to find a more interesting line of work, Dorsey found William’s email online and sent over his resume. A few back-and-forths and one interview later, Dorsey became part of the Odeo team.
Despite the hype surrounding William’s next venture, the platform gained little attention. Possibly from the timing of the service, possibly from its quality, or possibility from the increasing tension between the reserved and slow-moving leadership style of Evan Williams and the loud and frenetic style of Noah Glass, who didn’t officially run the company but took on an increasingly outspoken role as it progressed. Whatever the reason, the company hit rock bottom once Apple AAPL announced in 2005 that they would include podcasting in their juggernaut streaming service (at the time), iTunes.
Desperate to pivot from a now untenable situation, Williams held a series of hackathons among Odeo employees, in which they were told to put their normal tasks on hold and work on whatever side projects they had, with questions like “If you were to start a new company today, or reinvent Odeo, what would you build?” guiding their day.
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