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Twitter at 5: more relevant than ever

Micro-blogging service Twitter this week celebrates its 5th birthday, a milestone that once seemed highly unlikely as it struggled for recognition in a world that was still coming to terms with Facebook. Now, with the late-night jokes and major service outages firmly behind it, Twitter is rapidly becoming one of the giants of the digital age.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (@jack) reportedly sent the first tweet back on March 21, 2006. From that starting point, it took 3 years, 2 months and 1 day to reach a billion tweets, a volume that is now achieved in just a week. One year ago, Twitter averaged 50 million tweets per day. Today, that number is 140 million.

New Twitter accounts are being opened at the rate of 460,000 per day and the site has become an important source of information and commentary on everything from the latest Hollywood rant to world-changing events. The easy sign-up and relatively low maintenance required by the site has inspired everyone from major companies to celebrities to the ordinary man in the street to jump on board and have their say.

Twitter streams are carried on thousands of web sites and are religiously tracked by news organizations. It’s now commonplace for radio and TV hosts to go live to Twitter to check on the latest opinion and get audience feedback.

This past week brought another jolting reminder of the increasing relevance of social networking. As the magnitude of the unfolding catastrophe in Japan became clear, Twitter was alive with breaking news, information, photos, and video, with topics like #Japan, #tsunami and #PrayforJapan attracting millions of tweets and retweets.

Five days later, Twitter still carries the latest news on the quake and has become an important center for fundraising and disaster relief efforts. As the world gets smaller and we all feel the impact of these global events, Twitter has become an important lifeline that binds us all together.



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