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What is Twitter?
Ed Kohler
Almost every day on the Technology Evangelist podcast, someone will ask in the chat room, "What is Twitter?" This post is designed to answer that question, so we can pop a link in the chat rather than answer it over and over again. Not that we don't like answering it over and over again, but this will free up more time for dancing.

Twitter is a social networking site based around text messaging. First, you register yourself at, then invite a few friends into your Twitter network as friends. You can also add other Twitter users you don't know as friends, which I'll explain later.

Now that you and a few of your friends are connected, send a text message into Twitter's by texting the number 40404. Whatever you say in that message will be broadcast from Twitter out to all of your friends. So, with one text message you were able to communicate with many friends? How many friends? That's largely up to you to decide.

That's the publishing side.

On the reading side, you'll receive messages whenever your friends decide to send a Twitter update. Additionally, you can subscribe to other Twitter user's updates by clicking the ADD link on their profile page. They don't have to reciprocate, meaning they won't have to receive your updates just because you're interested in them.

That's the basic breakdown of what the service is about. You can send quick updates to a group of friends with a character limit of 140 per message.

Here's some more info if you want to dig deeper before jumping in:

- If you're not into text messaging, you can send updates using the Twitter website, or IM, like AIM or Gtalk. That's cheaper if you don't have a BIG text plan. And trust me, you want to have a big text messaging plan before going crazy on Twitter.

- You can subscribe to your updates using RSS, thus pulling them into Google Reader or Bloglines. This is done from your profile page.

- Technology Evangelist has a Twitter account at Subscribing to that will send you updates on podcasts and other Technology Evangelist related events.

- Everyone uses the service differently, which is one of the reasons it's become so popular. Some people send updates about waking up, going to bed, and other mundane status updates. That's not really my scene, but if they're coming from a loved one they may be interesting. Over time, you'll figure out who's using Twitter in a way that's interesting to you. Simply stop following people you're not interested in hearing from.

- You can stop SMS messages to your phone by texting the word OFF to 40404 at any time.

- You can also schedule off hours for the service using the site. This is useful if you have friends who like to do some drinking and Twittering late into the night, or if you have friends in different time zones.

- Ben is on Twitter at: and I'm at


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1. Posted by: Robby on May 12, 2007 8:15 AM:

Just curious why the focus is only on Twitter when Information Week even says Jaiku has more/better features? They reviewed the two services and from a feature standpoint, Jaiku looked pretty good. You have the 140 character posts, but there's also commenting on posts, and adding your webfeeds. They have a channel going with Eurovision now...and that includes some valuable branding and promotion space for a publisher. Of course, Jaiku is newer, and their community is growing. But I'm surprised that you didn't mention anything about Jaiku, Tumblr or others in the space, in your piece.

2. Posted by: Rhys on January 11, 2009 7:24 PM:

Anyone interested in building their own Twitter apps can check out Tweet-SQL. With Tweet-SQLapps can be build really quickly with Microsoft SQL Server.

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