How did Twitter become popular?

Over my next few posts, I am going to write about the businesses Twitter, Wolfram Alpha, Bing, and one of our very Indian platform (let’s leave the name for the future!)


People call it all sorts of things, but I would call it the only real social networking platform of today. Orkut and Facebook have done all sorts of things, but at the end of the day, neither Orkut nor Facebook is actually a networking platform. They are more of the place where you meet your old friends, be happy to be connected with them, and then forget them once more, unless it’s your birthday and they scrap you.

Now, Twitter is different. Twitter is actually a social networking platform. Let me explain each of these words – Platform – because it is extremely basic in its functionality, yet extremely good at it, and does not restrict you unnecessarily. There isn’t much code behind Twitter – it’s code can be written by anyone with basic Web Knowledge. What is great about Twitter is its server and infrastructure at the back end, which ensures that people can login through all sorts of media and still put up their message, and read other messages without the server blowing up.

Now that’s just the beginning. How did Twitter become popular? Twitter grew in steps – very big steps. Initially, Twitter was used just by the techies, and also by bloggers. Techies – because they liked to try new tools, and Bloggers – purely as a marketing technique for their blogs – so if you are a blogger, start following others (and thankfully anyone could follow anyone unlike the endless delays of accepting friends on other networks), and hope they follow you, and then blast them with your blog links. But again, many providers other than Twitter provided this service too. So why did Twitter emerge above others? Simply because it was uncluttered and it did not provide any useless information in the hope of trying to satisfy every need. Also, since Tweeters were not really sharing any personal information, they had the option of being a little more expressive in their opinions.

So Twitter laid its foundation right, and made itself ready for something big to happen on it. And one of those very big things was – 26/11, the Mumbai attacks. This is when Twitter broke all barriers of communication – by giving us first hand information about the attacks. This was really different from a news channel – it was like a live experience (of course, the incident in itself is extremely unfortunate). And it spread like a viral. This was definitely a big leap for Twitter.

The best part of the Twitter platform was that it is not limited by anything. You don’t need specifically a Gmail account, or a Yahoo account, or a Rediff account, there are no restrictions – you just need any one email ID with which you can join Twitter – there are no restrictions for commenting, and it’s so easy to put links without making them look long and ugly!

The next bit is – networking platform – Twitter is one place where you can actually find people you are looking for – A good example would be of the time of the recent Mumbai Rains – I wanted to know the status of affairs in Mumbai – and all I had to do was search for “mumbairains” on Twitter, and it connected me with a whole lot of people who were talking about the issue. This is what networking is all about! Networking is best when you get a channel to communicate (or maybe just listen) to the exact person who can serve the need of the hour.

Finally – it’s a social networking platform – why? Because it is of the people, by the people, and for the people (that should even make it democratic J). It’s got abundant rumours, it has got a whole lot of wrong news spreading like wildfire, it has got a whole lot of personalized opinions by people, and they share it across the world.

The best part for Twitter is that its growth is completely exponential – if ever there is a viral, it is on Twitter, and thus Twitter itself becomes stronger with that – with each viral making users better users of Twitter. Its rank all over the world is 25, and in India it’s growing faster by the day – and is now 15. Now, each time I want to know what’s the most popular news in the world right now, I just log on to Twitter and check the list of most discussed topics on the Right Menu, and get all the information I will ever need!

And of course, it’s as easy as clicking a button to hear out first hand to some of the top stars – Gul Panag and Mallika Sherawat (both have Twitter verified accounts).

Twitter is growing fast – it’s what a lot of B School students will recognize as “IP” – just that this IP is all over the world! Twitter is going to get even more popular with mobiles in the future – it’s just a question of time before we all start Tweeting from our mobiles on the move.

PS: I would recommend Twitterfox to all Twitter users – simple and light, yet effective.

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