What If…@Twitter Turns 10, Now What?

Happy 10th birthday Twitter. You’ve profoundly changed the way people communicate…mostly for the positive, sometimes with real challenges. You’ve simultaneously given us the opportunity and forced us to share thoughts more succinctly. You’ve enabled people (both good & evil) to reach the masses with nary a filter nor much restriction.

A brief history (according to Wikipedia): Ten years ago (March 21, 2006), Jack Dorsey published the first ever tweet. 1st Tweet

The original project code name for the service was twttr, an idea inspired by Flickr and the five-character length of American SMS short codes. Twitter received the 2007 SxSW Interactive conference Web Award prize accepting it with the remark “we’d like to thank you in 140 characters or less. And we just did!” During the confab, Twitter usage increased from 20K to 60K tweets per day. Soon thereafter, the fledgling service grew to 100M tweets/qtr (2008) and 50M tweets/day (Feb, 2010).

Today (according to Internet Live Stats), 6,000 tweets are posted every second, which equates to over 350K tweets/minute, 500M tweets/day and 200 billion tweets per year. That’s a whole lot of information flow ranging from insightful, enriching and informative to frivolous, blasphemous and simply absurd. Here’s a selection of articles about Twitter’s impact across various parts of civilization:

So what hath this technology wrought? A short-attention-span, instant gratification society defined by 140 characters or a brilliant yet simple mechanism to foster communication in ways never previously imagined? Do we further embrace this (and other messaging platforms) for their collective ability to shine an instantaneous light on dramatic challenges to the human spirit in countries that otherwise restrict such freedoms of expression? Or do we look for parameters (not necessarily restrictions) that bring a semblance of structure and order to otherwise chaotic environments so those that would do harm are no longer fully enabled?

The bigger question may not be what path(s) we choose, but whether we can even implement whatever decisions are made.

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