Using Twitter for Ministry: History – Part 3

Twitter’s prehistoric document, circa 2000.

Historically, twitter was born out of a brainstorming session by a group of employees at the podcasting company Odeo.  Jack Dorsey, a computer programmer, was fascinated by blogs, Instant Messaging (IM) and dispatcher systems.  Blogs allow you to host an online journal. IM gives the user the ability to chat live with friends, but it was limited because you were tethered to a computer.  Dispatcher systems required updates from ambulances, police officers, taxicabs and other city services, but according to Dorsey, it was missing one key piece, the public.  He envisioned a system that would allow everyone to post an update on what they were doing from anywhere.  Friends would be able to see what you were doing at anytime.  Dorsey tried to make a prototype in 2000 using his RIM850, the predecessor to the blackberry, and an email address.   Friends could respond to the email, but very few people had these devices.

In 2005, text messaging, or Short Messaging System (SMS) allowed a user to send a message between carriers.  A user on Verizon could now send a message to someone on at&t.  SMS is limited to 160 characters.  Dorsey and the creators of twitter decided that 20 characters would be used for a username, leaving 140 for an update.  Now anyone with a basic phone would be able to update his or her status and receive updates on their phone.  According to Dorsey the name of Twitter came to them during a name storming session.  They were trying to capture the sense that you could update your status from anywhere.  Twitch was suggested because of the feeling that you get when your phone buzzes in your pocket, but it wasn’t quite right. Using a dictionary, Dorsey said the group looked up words around twitch and found twitter, which was “a short burst of inconsequential information,” and “chirps from a bird” which was exactly what the product was designed to do (Sarno).

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