In 2006, a small Internet company in San Francisco developed a fast, free way to share and discover what's happening right now . Twitter.com was born, and in the past three years, this simple concept has attracted more than 14 million users and taken the world by storm!
Every day, celebrities, politicians, moms and dads log on to answer the question, "What are you doing?" The answer is called a "tweet," and it can be just about anything…as long as it's short. Posts are limited to 140 characters or less.
Users post everything from food diaries and marriage proposals to breaking news. In January 2009, a Twitterer was the first to post a photo of the U.S. Airways plane that crash-landed into the Hudson River.
The Twitterverse boasts many notable users, including Ellen DeGeneres, Shaquille O'Neal, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Gayle King and Ali Wentworth's husband, ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos .
Just months after Oprah joined Facebook , a popular social networking website, she's jumping on the Twitter bandwagon! "It's too cool," she says.
Some of Oprah's famous friends are already posting on her page, including Ali's husband. George writes in to ask Oprah to take care of his wife, who has a head cold. Shaquille also woke up early to send Oprah one of her first tweets!
Ellen tweets to ask why Oprah's online instead of working on their O magazine cover !
While the cameras roll, Oprah attempts to send a tweet of her own. What's her first post? "ASHTON KUTCHER IS NEXT!" Then she writes, "HI TWITTERS. THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY."
Ashton, an avid Twitterer, joins Oprah and her panel via Skype™ to talk about some exciting developments on Twitter. On April 13, 2009, Ashton started making headlines after challenging CNN to a contest of sorts.
At the time, Ashton had 842,550 people following his Twitter feed, while CNN had 897,969 followers.
"I didn't realize there were that many people following," he said in a YouTube video. "That's kind of crazy."
Then, Ashton threw down the gauntlet. He asked Internet users to sign up for Twitter and help him beat CNN to the 1 million mark. "If I beat CNN to a million followers, I will literally go and ding-dong ditch Ted Turner's house while I'm in Atlanta," he said. "I will video it, and I will post the video of me ding-dong ditching Ted Turner's house."
Ashton's Twitter race has been making headlines all week, and a little after 1 a.m. CT on April 17, 2009, he hit the million mark and beat CNN. "Congratulations!" Oprah says.
Ashton says he didn't necessarily want a million followers when he started using Twitter, but he thinks his victory makes a strong statement about the new Internet age.
"This is a commentary on the state of media. I believe that we're at a place now with social media where one person's voice can be as powerful as a media network. That is the power of the social Web," he says. "You can create your content through a collaborative effort, you can edit your content and you can consume your content all in one place. I thought it was almost like an uprising of the Internet."
Ashton says he uses his Twitter feed for various purposes, from posting pictures to raising awareness.
"My life is somewhat on display anyway, and not always by choice. … So instead of [the tabloids] publishing pictures and videos I don't like, I can publish videos and pictures myself that are already preapproved," he says. "On top of that, you can really rally people around different causes. We've been working with Malaria No More to put an end to malaria."
World Malaria Day is April 25, 2009, and Ashton is encouraging his Twitter followers to donate mosquito nets to African countries and join the malaria elimination effort. To help the cause, Oprah says she's donating 20,000 nets!
Ashton says Twitter has also given him the power to respond to reports in the tabloids about him, his wife, Demi Moore, and his family. "If there's a fallacy that's out in some magazine or some blogger has written about, you can actually respond to it in a genuine way, directly with your fans," he says.
Evan Williams is one of the co-founders of Twitter, which is currently a company of only 35 people. The name Twitter is based on the sound birds make to communicate, he says, because Twitter is meant to be similarly fast and light.
Evan's part of a team of three founders, and says his co-founder Jack Dorsey originally came up with the idea. "My co-founders Biz [Stone] and Jack are supergeniuses," he says. "I had been working on blogging for a long time and saw what it did for people. It gives them a way to express themselves and democratizes media. … The beauty is it's very fast. A lot of the focus is that you can do it in seconds." In fact, it's so fast that Evan says law enforcement and fire departments use Twitter to disseminate time-sensitive information to communities.