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Twitter comes of age

If anyone had any lingering doubts about the value of social networking, then the events of the last 48 hours will surely have laid them to rest. The news of Osama bin Laden’s death did not come courtesy of the New York Times, Fox News, or even CNN. The story was broken by Twitter, the much-maligned micro-blogging site that has now become the undisputed hub of the 24-hour news cycle.

The first credible indication that the President was going to announce bin Laden’s death came at 10:25 pm on Sunday night, when Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld interrupted his tweets on the Washington Capitals hockey game to post the following: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn.”

Over the next hour Mr. Urbahn’s post was retweeted over 2,000 times, leading TV broadcasters who were essentially under a gag order from the White House to spill the beans on the big news long before the President eventually came on the air at 11:35 pm.

Then there were the extraordinary tweets from @ReallyVirtual, aka Sohaib Athar, a resident of Abbottabad, Pakistan, who complained about helicopters hovering overhead at 1:00 am in the morning (“a rare event”). He then went on to unwittingly describe the now-famous U.S. raid on bin Laden’s hideaway taking place just a few blocks from where he lived.

Mr. Athar’s prescience was matched only by his sense of humor, as he followed the realization of bin Laden’s nearby death with a string of entertaining tweets and re-tweets, including the priceless “Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood.”

From 10:45 pm ET on Sunday to 12:30 am the following morning, Twitter averaged 3,440 tweets per second, “the highest sustained rates of Tweets ever,” according to the social network’s PR feed.

After the President wrapped up his remarks, the TV studios rushed to get the opinions of every so-called “expert” that they could get their hands on, which wasn’t very many considering it was approaching midnight on a Sunday evening.

As Business Insider pointed out, TV suddenly seemed very old and boring.

Comment by Jamie Dunham, posted 5/5/2011, 4:12 PM:

I couldn't agree more! It seems that Twitter is the Paul Revere of our age. I think we want our news fast, fresh and free!
Comment by Jennifer Wagner, posted 5/4/2011, 11:05 AM:

What I really found extraordinary was this was the first time I was ever on Twitter where every tweet was on the same topic. Every single one. Bin Laden was more than trending. His death totally owned twitter Sunday night.
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