Twitter turns 10

Crisp messages in a maximum length of 140 characters, fast and authentic: Twitter's promise sounds tempting. Ten years after its founding, however, the short message service is facing major challenges.

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Twitter turns ten on Monday, but the short message service has little to celebrate on its first birthday. Recently, the number of active users declined slightly for the first time, the balance sheet is deeply in the red quarter after quarter, and the share price is stuck in the basement, well below the issue price of the IPO in 2013. Twitter has changed the world, creating a unique channel. "Anyone can share their ideas and information instantly and across borders," is Twitter's official motto. But building a profitable business out of it is proving extremely difficult. When Twitter was launched ten years ago, it wasn't initially about founding an online service to make money. The service came about more by accident than by chance. The small company Odeo in San Francisco actually wanted to develop an audio service for the web. During a brainstorming session, developer Jack Dorsey suggested sending short status messages to all team members via SMS so that everyone would know what the others were working on. In two weeks, a prototype emerged. "Just setting up my twttr," was the first short message from Dorsey that can still be found today, on March 21, 2006. The influential U.S. blog "TechCrunch" discovered the service three months later. Twitter then achieved its breakthrough at the SXSW Interactive tech conference in Texas in March 2007, and the company Twitter Inc. was founded a month later.
 

Twitter is always there

In the meantime, there is hardly a major event that does not take place on Twitter. The emergency ditching of the passenger plane near New York in January 2009, the huge demonstrations during the "Arab Spring" starting in 2011, the bombing of the marathon in Boston and the subsequent hunt for the perpetrators, the horror of the terrorist attacks in Paris. And these are just a few historical moments that would have been perceived differently without Twitter. But where does Twitter go from here? At some point, every company has to make money. Co-founder Jack Dorsey faces a daunting challenge in his second go-round as Twitter CEO. He has to fix the short message service - but must not upset the millions of satisfied Twitter users in the process. And certainly not the "power users" like journalists, politicians or celebrities, for many of whom Twitter has become almost vital.

Internet entrepreneur Sean Parker, who once co-founded the music exchange Napster and was involved with Facebook in its early years, sees this as a problem. The media's enthusiasm made Twitter grow quickly in the early years, he explained in Vanity Fair magazine. "But that came at a price: that users did not become a tight-knit community." Under pressure, Dorsey seems to be turning every screw he can find. Two months ago, he hinted that the 140-character limit per tweet, initially introduced because of SMS as a base, could fall (Werbewoche.ch reported). Now he said on TV that the limit will remain.

Strategy missing

In recent years, it has often seemed that Twitter's top management lacked a clear strategy. First the founders dispensed with advertising altogether so as not to scare users, then business was to be done and paid tweets and "trends" suddenly appeared in the news stream. Such advertising accounts for the bulk of Twitter's revenue. But the question is how much more of this can be expected of today's Twitterers. At the end of last year, Twitter had 305 million active users, if you exclude subscribers to an SMS service. That was two million fewer than just three months earlier. Together with the SMS service, the number stagnated at 320 million. The world's largest online network Facebook has 1.6 billion active members and is still growing fast. This is also the basis for higher advertising revenues. At the same time, Dorsey says, you actually have to add more than 500 million other users who get to see tweets - and also ads - without being logged into Twitter. (SDA)

 


The first tweet of the advertising week. At Discover.twitter.com/first-tweet you can get the first tweet from any user with one click.

Twitter Chronology:

- March 2006: Co-founder Jack Dorsey writes the first Twitter message that can be found today: "just setting up my twttr," he types. "just setting up my twttr".

- March 2007: Twitter's big breakthrough comes at the South by Southwest digital conference in Austin, as the digital elite discover the service.

- April 2007 The company Twitter Inc. is founded.

- October 2008: Dorsey hands over the helm to co-founder Evan Williams. Twitter has around three million users.

- April 2009: Actor Ashton Kutcher and the TV station CNN are in a race to see who can reach one million subscribers on Twitter first. Kutcher wins.

- April 2010: Twitter introduces "sponsored tweets," which can be placed in users' news streams by advertisers.

- October 2010: Dick Costolo becomes Twitter CEO.

- January 2011: Demonstrators in the Middle East use networks such as Twitter and Facebook to organize their resistance to repressive regimes. In the course of the so-called "Arab Spring," heads of state are overthrown in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

- September 2011: Twitter has 100 million monthly active users.

- February 2012: Twitter launches a self-service platform that allows companies to advertise.

- January 2013: Twitter launches the Vine service for short videos.

- November 2013: Twitter goes public. The initial proceeds of the IPO amount to $1.8 billion. According to the company, more than 230 million people use the service.

- March 2015: Twitter confirms purchase of live streaming provider Periscope

- April 2015: Investor disappointment with the latest quarterly figures shaves off around one fifth of the company's value in a single day. The share price has not recovered from this to date, but has only gone lower.

- July 2015: Jack Dorsey initially replaces Costolo as acting chief and takes over the job permanently in the fall.

- August 2015: Twitter shares fall below the issue price of 26 dollars at the IPO for the first time. At its peak, it once cost over 60 dollars.

- January 2016: Current figures show that the number of active users fell for the first time in the final quarter of 2015; if an SMS service is included, it stagnates. (SDA)

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