Get ready for a heap of sour looks and emotional mood swings — Twitter has just turned 15.
July 15, 2006, saw the birth of Twitter. It started as a side project by Odeo, a directory and search destination web site for RSS-syndicated audio and video — the early days of podcasting. Enter tech engineer Jack Dorsey, a New York University dropout who came up with an idea that would allow users to send short group texts.
Dorsey set in motion a world-changing phenomenon with a cryptic message online: “just setting up my twttr”. That short string of characters recently sold as an NFT for a cool 50.8751669 Bitcoin.
— jack (@jack) March 22, 2021
We’ve been told that’s a lot.
Save your cryptos though as you can still see the Tweet for free:
just setting up my twttr
— jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
From humble beginnings this social microblogging platform has fundamentally changed the media landscape, altered political discourse and influenced society in permanent and profound ways.
While the platform has definitely achieved great things, some have pointed out the lack of innovation — so common in other successful social media. While Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram all morph and evolve, Twitter has plodded along rather slowly on the development front.
This is reflected in often tepid financial results. Since its IPO in 2013, Twitter has underperformed the market, growing its share price at just two per cent per year. Meagre, indeed.
Not to mention the rampant toxicity prevalent on the platform. Hell, Amnesty International even called out Twitter’s failure to adequately meet its human rights responsibilities regarding violence and abuse, mainly against women.
Ask any woman about their experience on Twitter (or online in general) and you’ll get the picture of what a cesspool it has become.
Twitter’s toxicity and subpar financial results are one and the same problem. They say where your focus goes, your energy flows. Dorsey himself is only a part-time CEO, splitting his commitments between his first love and new fling: financial payments company Square.
It’s fairly obvious which one is more important to him:
— Andrew Walker (@AndrewRangeley) May 27, 2021
Square hasn’t been idle when it comes to innovation. This year alone it has rolled out a number of interesting developments. Square Loans, is a simplified microloans scheme based on the retailer’s transactions, designed to boost cash flow. This is in addition to Square KDS, a kitchen display system designed to organise and fulfill orders for commercial kitchens.
While it’s definitely been idle, after many years of stagnation, this year saw Twitter finally roll out some new features. While the ‘Unmention’ feature — which lets users untag themselves from others’ tweets — is fairly underwhelming, additional new concepts allow greater control over how tweets are communicated.
This includes a way to tweet only to a group of trusted friends, new prompts which ask users to reconsider the language they’re using when posting a reply, and a “personas” feature which would allow tweets to be based on different contexts — such as work life, hobbies and interests, or other facets of your life.
Interesting, sure, but not really on par with the level of what we’re seeing out of Square.
Either way, Twitter is unlikely to fade into the night anytime soon. So as the little bird swells its chest to blow out the candles and sneak sips from the liquor cabinet while you’re out, we salute this surly teenager and hope they can blossom into the media parent we always knew they could be.