Twitter icon for a fluid appTwitter has arrived.

The 3 year old microblogging service that has been the darling of the tech community has gone mainstream. With mentions on CNN and CBC during the respective election campaigns alongside plugs during both The Grammys and The Oscars, there’s no other way to describe it.

I usually start my explanation of Twitter by saying it’s like your Facebook status update. It’s limited to 140 characters, the standard length of an SMS message, but it has evolved far beyond the Facebook-styled update.

Twitter first caught fire 2 years ago during Austin’s South-by-Southwest Interactive conference when the tech crowd used it to keep track of the hot parties and keynotes. Now as smartphones dominate the landscape, web based apps are taking control of Twitter and the activity has grown more than 700% in the past year.

While some may accuse Twitter as yet another way for narcissists to microblog their each and every movements in life, uber blogger Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) describes Twitter as “the worldwide talkshow.”

When something global like the Oscars happens, Twitter becomes a chat room with wild and active conversations between not only regular internet users, but those from Hollywood as well.

Demi TweetDemi Moore (@mrskutcher), P Diddy (@iamdiddy) and Coldplay (@coldplay) are just a few of the household names now taking to Twitter.

“We are taking over our own tabloid media,” wrote Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) on Monday.

Even Jane Fonda (@janefonda) got in on the conversation “Hugh Jackman is so handsome,” she wrote during Sunday’s telecast. “And he sings!! But what about Anne Hathaway–who knew she sang too!!”

John Mayer (@johncmayer) used Twitter from the second row of the Kodak Theatre to tweet joke translations of Penelope Cruz‘s speech. “One time I went on a boat and it was really fun. Tomorrow I will wear the new socks that I bought,” he wrote before quickly following up with “hold on, getting told now that I have not translated this correctly.”

Some thought the Oscars were boring, but dialing into the web made it a more three dimensional experience.

Twitter and Facebook was just alive with all these amazing people putting up funny zingers and one liners,” smiles Steve Pratt (@steveprattca), co-Founder of The Anti-Benjamin Button Club, who was online throughout the show tweeting instant reactions to skits and jokes and speeches and winners as they happened.

Fiona Forbes (@fionaforbes), co-host of Urban Rush quickly follows up: “It made bad tv fun to watch.”

BLOGOSPHERE BUZZ

Another phrase used to describe Twitter is “the real time web.” Before things are indexed in a search engine, people are talking about them on Twitter sharing facts, photos and opinions. When Flight 1549 landed on the Hudson, pictures showed up on Twitter before they were on TV. When the siege in Mumbai happened, hostages were Twittering from their hotel rooms.

Local news outlets are using the power of Twitter to beat their deadlines by posting news stories as they happen. You can follow @24hoursvan to get the latest news headlines from 24hours. Virgin Radio (@virgin953) host Kuljeet Kaila (@kuljeetkaila) uses Twitter to share traffic information and get tips from her listeners.

Many have hailed Barack Obama‘s (@barackobama) use of Twitter to mobilize a younger generation to become involved in the process in the US. With that in mind, Canadian pols are taking to the service. As BC heads into a May election, both Gordon Campbell (@g_campbell) and Carole James (@carolejames) are on the service using it to announce appearances.

In response to the online outrage to the changes in Facebook‘s Terms of Service the past week, the company has gone to many lengths to make clear you own your stuff. Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly appeared on MSNBC‘s press:here to emphatically underline everything you put on Facebook belongs to you and is subject to your own privacy settings.

This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on February 25, 2009.
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