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'Twitterers' and more very 2007 moments from our 9-year-old interview with Twitter's Jack Dorsey

'Twitterers' and more very 2007 moments from our 9-year-old interview with Twitter's Jack Dorsey
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Esther Vargas

Twitter celebrated its 10th anniversary on Monday, which is kind of jarring considering that the age of social media still feels like a pretty new thing—at least it feels that way to me, if not for my nieces.

Over the past decade, the platform has gone a long way in changing the way that people interact online, but when it was first released, users found it a bit, well, confusing.

An article that ran in Time Out Chicago in April 2007 gives a pretty good look at how Twitter was initially received. Nine years later, the piece feels hilariously out of touch—especially because the art that accompanies it includes Twitter's founder Jack Dorsey looking like the victim of a costume designer desperately trying to convey "mid-2000s"—he's donning a terrible nose ring and a tacky hot pink Motorola phone. 

The entire article is attached below, but we've pulled the eight most amusing excerpts to illustrate how much the Internet has changed over the last decade. Maybe nine years from now you'll look back on your iPhone 6S and wonder how you even got by with such a crummy piece of technology. 

"Twitter, a burgeoning social- networking application that unites the trifecta of modern communication: text messaging, instant messaging and blogging."

Twitter was originally launched as an SMS-based platform. Initially, users would send out tweets by way of text messaging, which used to be capped at 140 characters (hence Twitter's character limit). 

"Perhaps you don’t care what presidential hopeful John Edwards is doing at this very moment. But the curious among you needn’t so much as proffer a guess thanks to Twitter"

When the article came out in 2007, John Edwards was gunning for the Democratic presidential nomination. Later in the year, the first reports of Edwards career-plaguing extramarital affair began to surface, at which point everyone was wondering what he was doing. 

"Twitter’s 100,000 users (called 'twitterers')" 

Today, Twitter has more than 300 million active users, and the fact that its user base was once smaller than the population of Dayton, Ohio is sort of strange to think about (and also kind of inspiring). 

"Like MySpace, it’s free (save those pesky text-messaging fees), and anyone can sign up at twitter.com."

Remember when MySpace was the gold standard for social media platforms?

"We’ve found Twitter comes in handy as an easy way to send an open invitation to hang out on those lonesome nights when no one seems to be around."

Sending out public invites on Twitter isn't exactly the best way to round up a group of friends, but rather an effective way to make sure you're surrounded by creeps.  

"But in a society already oversaturated with social- networking tools and communication devices, the addition of a so-called miniblogger such as Twitter— perhaps the most populist application yet—makes us wonder, How much connection is too much connection?"

Oh, honey, nine years later and we're just getting started. 

“Twitter is a release because you do the things you do every day and you don’t necessarily share them with anyone," Dorsey says. 

Well, he got his wish, because these days apps like Periscope and Facebook Live allow people to literally show their friends exactly what they're doing at any given moment. 

"Twitter didn't soar until last month—eight months after its launch—when Dorsey and Obvious Corp's nine other employees demoed the service at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas."

That's right, Twitter had 10 employees in 2007. Now it's a publicly-traded company with offices all over the world.  


Our full Dorsey article:

Phoning it in

Twitter takes texting to the blogosphere and back

By Jake Malooley

Perhaps you don’t care what presidential hopeful John Edwards is doing at this very moment. But the curious among you needn’t so much as proffer a guess thanks to Twitter (twitter.com), a burgeoning social- networking application that unites the trifecta of modern communication: text messaging, instant messaging and blogging. Edwards is just one of Twitter’s 100,000 users (called “twitterers”) dispatching brief in- progress messages from their cell phones or computers in answer to the question “What are you doing?” Twitter users who “follow” (subscribe to) Edwards’s posts receive real-time updates on their cell phone or instant messenger. Just minutes ago, for instance, we received a text from Edwards’s staff that read: “1st quarter fund-raising deadline is tomorrow...Sen. Edwards will be in KY, IN, OH and FL today for the final push.”

Edwards aside, the desire to be the leader of the free world is not a prerequisite for opening a Twitter account. Like MySpace, it’s free (save those pesky text-messaging fees), and anyone can sign up at twitter.com. Unlike MySpace, it’s not full of spam or owned by Rupert Murdoch. Users get a personal page that displays all their posts, and from that page they can subscribe to the posts of existing members and invite friends to follow their posts. We’ve found Twitter comes in handy as an easy way to send an open invitation to hang out on those lonesome nights when no one seems to be around. “Hey all you twits,” we wrote one night. “At Club Foot drinking Long Islands. Let’s dance.” An hour later we had a gaggle of people on the floor bouncing to Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”

Limited to a paltry 140 characters, Twitter posts often center on humdrum details such as the contents of one’s lunch or which band someone’s listening to on her iPod, although a number of folks have twittered birth announcements and other important news. But in a society already oversaturated with social- networking tools and communication devices, the addition of a so-called miniblogger such as Twitter— perhaps the most populist application yet—makes us wonder, How much connection is too much connection?

Maybe there’s no such thing, says Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder. Dorsey developed the service last year while working for Odeo, a San Francisco–based audio-sharing start- up founded by Blogger creator Evan Williams. (Even though Twitter started as a side project, it’s now parent-company Obvious Corp’s main product.) Fascinated by the feel of continual, real-time presence emitted by the status bar of instant messengers—“I’m away from my computer” being the bland default— Dorsey set out to create a program that would allow people to wirelessly send short, mass updates on what they were doing. “Twitter is a release because you do the things you do every day and you don’t necessarily share them with anyone,” Dorsey says. “Twitter sets the expectation that it’s okay to share [those routine things] with everyone and that those messages are just as valid as any other message. It does away with a lot of fear of creating small talk; you know all the things [your friend] did with their day and you can immediately go deeper with the conversation.”

Twitter didn’t soar until last month—eight months after its launch—when Dorsey and Obvious Corp’s nine other employees demoed the service at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. They displayed Twitter on plasma-screen TVs throughout the fest, and eventually, Dorsey says, festivalgoers started to catch on. “People were twittering about the best lunch places, the best parties, the best conferences and the best bands,” he says. “For the most part it was used to organize and coordinate activities, but it also became a peanut gallery for [films and bands].” Twitter was the darling of the interactive portion of the conference, winning the prestigious Interactive Web award.

In the face of praise and drastic increases in user volume, Dorsey says it’s been difficult to remain true to Twitter’s original text-based vision. Requests pour in for features like picture messaging. “At the moment there are other sites focused on [pictures],” Dorsey says, “and they do it very well. But I think text as a medium is not as explored as it could be. In a short message, in those tiny details, there’s a lot of meaning there and a lot of our personality.”

 

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