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Twitter's African influence as it celebrates fifth birthday

As Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday today, African Business Review takes a look at how the social media site has taken the world by storm, and made a difference to the continent, too.
 Twitter now has 460,000 new users joining every day
 
 
As Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday today, African Business Review takes a look at how the social media site has taken the world by storm, and made a difference to the continent, too.

Developed by podcast company Odeo, the first tweet was sent on 21 March 2006 as the idea of an online SMS-based service came to fruition. Twitter formally went live in July that year and was initially used as an internal communication system by Odeo employees.

Number of Twitter numbers jumps up

The official Twitter blog documented that Twitter is now seeing an average of 460,000 new users signing up each day – or just under 14 million on a typical month. The record was set on March 12 this year, when 572,000 new profiles were added.

In recent months, while it is unfair and incorrect to suggest that the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have been fuelled by Twitter, there is no doubt that messages circulating in cyberspace were a factor in the uniting of communities worldwide.

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Twitter revolts

Revolutionaries tweeting updates on the latest developments allowed news to spread much faster, engaging a wider audience than traditional television news reports ever could on a single platform.

As events in Tunisia unfolded leading to Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali being ousted as President, Twitter users at the heart of the action in the country had the power to post a single tweet that could be transmitted around the world in a matter of seconds.

Egypt protests

The same could be said for Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in Egypt. On 11 February this year, the day the President’s regime was finally toppled, news that he had fled Cairo spread like wildfire with rumours that he had travelled to tourist hotspot Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Later that day, a message from Egyptian state TV announced that a statement was imminent and the power of Twitter alerted citizens across the globe of Mubarak’s inevitable resignation hours before it happened.

Ongoing events in Libya are constantly being documented by Twitter sources and with more and more users joining the social media site, Twitter’s role in communication in Africa and elsewhere across the world is only going to become more significant.

For related stories, click on the links below:

How to raise an online profile in Africa

Social media transforms communication in rural Africa





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