10 Things You’d Probably Forgotten About The Early Days Of Twitter

Twitter has come a long way since it launched. It doesn’t fall down all the time for a start.

Twitter has flown all the way to the stock market, a huge valuation and a monster pay day for its founders.

Twitter’s IPO launched yesterday in New York, with investor enthusiasm sending the share price way above the guide price of $26 at around $45. That means it’s worth about $24 billion - despite analysts expecting it will only make its first profit in 2015.

But it hasn’t been a smooth path since its launch.

1. When Twitter launched in 2006, no one really had a clue what to do with it.

This, from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, is the first ever tweet.

But it took a long time to get any more interesting. A lot of early tweets were like this.

People were very keen to let you know what they were eating, a tradition that continues to this day.

waiting for dinner - smells good

— biz (@Biz Stone)

Yeah, it was kind of hard to predict this would later help topple oppressive regimes.

after yoga bubble tea. Quickly!

— jack (@Jack Dorsey)

2. There were no @ replies.

replies didn’t become an official feature (linked to people’s usernames) until 2008. However, Twitter users had already started using to mention someone or to talk to them directly.

3. There were so few people tweeting you usually spotted your name being mentioned without the need for the @.

Jon - just wait until you find out all the neat tricks (comping and otherwise) in Photoshop :P I'm up for a vid chat sometime if you like...

— danrubin (@Dan Rubin)

4. It went down all the time.

Which gave early enthusiasts serious withdrawals symptoms.

You don’t see it so much these days, but The Fail Whale has entered popular culture, appearing everywhere from cakes to beer and even Japanese animation.


As with every web startup, Twitter had its early hiccups and throughout 2007 and 2008 users came to expect the occasional arrival of the Fail Whale. During 2007, there were nearly six full days of downtime as its data centre struggled to cope with some very fast growth.

When the site goes down these days, it’s quite a big deal.

Pub quiz fact: The whale image was created by Yiying Lu as a greeting card for friends.

5. No one got the point of it.

Journalists and media people use Twitter almost as second nature now, but it took a long time for people to stop saying, “Isn’t it just a waste of time?”

Then it started to become a key part of the news ecosystem.

Mumbai terrorists are asking Hotel Reception for room #s of American citizens and holding them hostage on one floor

— dupree_ (@dupree)

Like when this plane landed in the Hudson river in New York.

It was, as co-founder Biz put it:

6. Even so, there was still no search or trending topics. That didn’t come in until 2009.

7. Same with retweets - they didn’t officially exist for the first three years of Twitter.

8. And #hashtags, which were only hyperlinked and clickable as of July 2009. Facebook introduced the same thing in June this year.

9. You can’t move for them now, but early on there were HARDLY ANY celebrities on Twitter.

Then, on they came.

Getting to know twitter

— wossy (@Jonathan Ross)

One by one.

Hello Twitterers. I'm About to fly to Africa for a new project and will be tweeting whilst I'm filming.

— stephenfry (@Stephen Fry)

Wondering why I'm eating weight watchers chocolate.... I'm not fat!

— Schofe (@Phillip Schofield)

10. It felt like you knew everyone.

When, in 2008, for some unknown reason, everyone decided to change their profile pictures to cartoon characters, there were so few people tweeting at the time that it was like a little community event.

On one day in August 2013, there was a peak of 143,000 tweets per second.

So long live Twitter, in the new publicly traded, megabucks chapter of its flighty existence. It’s still without any profits but our world would fall apart without it. To Twitter we say:

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