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Last Updated: Friday, 3 August 2007, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Twitter microblogs to success
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
Click's North America technology correspondent

They started with nothing 18 months ago but now the founders of Twitter have made their start-up the talk of the town.

Twitter website
Twitter was founded in March 2006

Twitter is as simple as it gets. You create a page, sign up some friends and then start typing quick messages from your phone, instant messaging application or browser.

Instantly you can update your pool of pals about your location, what you are doing and what you are thinking about, just as long as the number of characters in a single post does not go above 140.

"The point of Twitter is to keep it short, to the point, and informative for yourself and other people," explains the company's Crystal Taylor.

Your friends, of course, can do the same. The result is a stream of phrases being delivered to you throughout the day.

For thousands of users like Josh Lewis it is addictive and has made Twitter one of the most talked-about sites in the so-called Web 2.0 age.

"I probably know about a dozen people who use Twitter," he says. "Some people will just post sometimes quite inane things like what they had for breakfast.

"Other times there's a discussion. You'll get tiny mini-reviews of products or a review of a website you just found with a link to the website."

Twitter is at the forefront of a micro-blogging wave, which includes sites such as Jaiku, Pownce and Frazr, as well as features like status update in social networks like Facebook.

Creative inspiration

The creator of Twitter is Jack Dorsey, who has thought about the interaction of where, when and why for most of his life.

We have a lot of ideas and there are a lot of ways we can go
Biz Stone, Twitter

"Since I was 14 years old I've always been fascinated, oddly so, with couriers and the concept of dispatch, and presence and status.

"I was always concerned with where people were and what they were doing and how to visualise that," he adds.

The other co-founders of the company have a lot of start-up experience.

Evan Williams has built companies like Odeo, Pyro Labs and Obvious. Biz Stone also worked on some of those projects with Mr Williams He admits that even though they have a huge customer base they are lacking what some people would consider a crucial element.

"We're basically holding off on a business plan," he says. "We have a lot of ideas and there are a lot of ways we can go because we're in so many spaces - we're in the web, mobile, IM. So we're basically in a research mode."

Community contributions

Even so, the interest in Twitter from venture capitalists is high. Last month Union Square Ventures, a New York firm, invested an undisclosed sum.

US presidential hopefuls John Edwards and Barack Obama
John Edwards and Barack Obama are campaigning on Twitter

Of course the Silicon Valley dream is to start a business and sell it for millions of dollars. But the Twitter co-founders say that is far from their minds, preferring to concentrate on the core product.

The company encourages its user base to participate in the design process. For example, within days of the iPhone being released, there were no less than five user-made applications available for it.

It is this sort of user community creativity that demonstrates a passion for the product among the fan base and it is one of the things that venture capitalists look for when considering an investment.

But the wrong kind of buzz can also kill a product and deflect future financing. For example Twitter has been called senseless, pointless and stupid by some reviewers.

"I really disagree that it's completely pointless because I've had too many useful discussions that have stemmed from it, or I've said something on Twitter and a friend has come up to me and asked me to tell them more about it," said Mr Lewis. "It's a conversation starter."

Josh is not the only one who thinks it is useful. Presidential hopefuls John Edwards and Barack Obama have also joined up. They are twittering on the campaign trail, using the service as a way of connecting to supporters and getting their points across.

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