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From Ashes to Twitter

How Twitter Emerged from Odeo Corp.’s Death-Bed

Twitter is a global social network where people share information, opinions and news in text messages not longer than 140 characters. Twitter is very similar to Facebook, but it focuses on short status updates broadcast publicly. Currently, it has over 230 million active users every month. Its primary source of revenue is advertisement through its three main products namely promoted tweets, accounts and trends. And as Twitter celebrates its eighth birthday, it is worth visiting how the company begun.

The Birth of Twitter

twitter historyThe story of Twitter begins with a story of start-up Podcasting Company called Odeo. The company was co-founded by Noah Glass and Evan William. Evan is a former Google employee turned tech entrepreneur and the co-founder of the company known as Blogger, which was later acquired by Google. Glass and Evan were joined by Evan’s wife and a former colleague of Evan at Google, Biz Stone. The company had a total of 14 employees, including the CEO Evan, web designer Jack Dorsey and Eng. Blaine Cook. The future of Odeo was ruined by the arrival of iTunes podcasting in 2006, which rendered this start-up company’s podcasting platform irrelevant and unlikely to succeed. Consequently, Odeo needed a new product to reinvent itself, move from the ashes and stay alive in the tech world. The company had to come up with a new product, and Jack Dorsey had an idea. Dorsey’s idea was completely unique and different from what the company was then pursuing. The idea was about “status”, sharing what you are doing at any time of the day. Dorsey discussed the idea with Glass who found it very compelling. Glass got gravitated towards the “status” thing and suggested it was the way to go. So in February 2006, Glass together with Dorsey and Florian Weber (a German contract developer) presented the idea to Odeo. Glass named it “Twttr”, comparing the text messages to birds’ chirps. Six months later, this name was changed to Twitter! Twitter was to be implemented in such a way that you send a text to given phone number and the text would broadcasted out to your friends. Perhaps you may ask, why 140 characters? Actually, the SMS carrier limit was 160, but the other 20 characters were left as room for the username. Back to our story, after the presentation, Evan tasked Glass to spearhead the project with the help of Biz Stone. And this is how Dorsey’s idea begun its journey to becoming the mighty Twitter we know today.

The Dawn of Tweeting

Glass’ team begun working on Twitter prototype in February 2006, and by March 21, tweeting was born as Jack Dorsey @Jack made his first tweet. The tweet read:

“just setting up my twttr.”

This was the inaugural of tweeting revolution.  The platform grew slowly, but it was catching on. The 38th tweet was from Dom Sagolla (@Dom), and it read:

“Oh, this is going to be addictive.”

And indeed it was addictive. At one point Odeo employees racked up huge SMS bills, with one employing accruing a total of $300. The company agreed to settle the bills for its employees in a move to popularise their new pet project. In July that year, TechCrunched made its first story about Twttr. However, the real turning point in Twitter’s first year came when a small earthquake was experienced in San Francisco and, at lightening speed, word spread via Twitter. By night fall Twitter had recorded thousands of users.

Buyout

By this time Odeo was on its deathbed and not even Twttr offered its investors any hopes of recovering their money. In fact, when Glass presented the project to the board of directors, none of the members seemed interested. So when Evan offered to buy the shares of the Odeo investors to prevent them from incurring losses, none of them objected. To them, he was buying the ashes of Odeo. Though the exact figure Evan paid for the buyout is not known, it is approximated to be around $5million. Some people feel that Evan must have realised Twttr’s potential but did not share it with the board. However, he is of the opinion that he was doing them a favour and it is only that he turned out lucky. I don’t know how he could risk all that money, when clearly it was not his fault why Odeo was sinking! He had just sold Blogger to Google and may be was feeling sufficiently philanthropic. After the Odeo buyout, Evan changed its name to Obvious Corporation, and surprisingly fired his friend and co-founder Noah Glass. Though the circumstances behind Glass’ dismissal are not known, many people who’ve worked with them say Evan and Glass are exact opposite of one another. It may be also because of power, since Glass had become so attached to Twttr that at one point he wanted it divested from Odeo. After Glass was dismissed, Twitter was incorporated under Obvious Corp. with Jack Dorsey as its first CEO and Evan William as its chairman

The March 2007 Breakthrough Party

The first year is not one of the best years for any startup, and so was it for Twitter. The growth was slow and by the time Evan was buying out of Odeo, Twttr had only registered slightly over 5,000 users. The breakthrough came in March 2007 when Twitter hosted South by Southwest Interactive Festival. The company set up huge plasma screens and through them, they broadcasted tweets from people who attended the festival. It was amazing and the media begun giving Twitter the attention it much needed. The number of tweets per day increased with more than double, and has since been on the rise.

The Introduction of Promo Tweets

Until April 13, 2010 since its inception, Twitter was only a social network and had no listed source of income. The introduction of promoted tweets, both in timelines and user’s search results, gave it an opportunity to make money from advertising and exploit its huge following. This feature has further been enhanced to include pictures and videos. Earlier, users could only click links that would open other websites to display images or videos. In 2013, the company recorded $474 million in terms of revenues and this is expected to more than double in 2014, thanks to its ever growing population.

Twitter IPO

Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 at 10:49 a.m. ET. Unlike fellow giant social network Facebook, Twitter soared and closed at 73% higher than its entry price of $26 a share. Its first trade was registered at $45.10 a share. The day’s high was $50.09, approximately 93% above its IPO price. As of last trading, February 28, 2014, the company closed trading at $54.91, losing 1.54%.

The Current Twitter

The current Twitter is a result of avid users. At its inception, Twitter had no Hashtag (#), the reply symbol (@) or ReTweet tag. The company adopted these symbols from users. Today Twitter has over 645,750,000 registered users with 135,000 people creating accounts every day. It records at least one billion tweets every week at a rate of 9,100 tweets per second. Actually, it is the best way to rub shoulders with celebrities, share your thoughts or receive news. It is the most preferred social network by celebrities and even politicians. This article has been written by Walter Oduor for Spunsofts. Walter is a freelance writer and commentator. View his full profile here.  

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