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With 54 million visitors a month and new partnerships with Google and Microsoft, Twitter is giving other social media sites a run for their money. But what exactly are tweets, and what makes them so popular?

Many social networking Web sites have lots of bells and whistles. Sites like MySpace and Facebook let users build profiles, upload pictures, incorporate multimedia, keep a blog and integrate useful or bizarre programs into homepages. But one Web company with a very simple service is rapidly becoming one of the most talked-about social networking service providers: Twitter.

So what does Twitter do? When you sign up with Twitter, you can use the service to post and receive messages to a network of contacts. Instead of sending a dozen e-mails or text messages, you send one message to your Twitter account, and the service distributes it to all your friends. Members use Twitter to organize impromptu gatherings, carry on a group conversation or just send a quick update to let people know what's going on.

Twitter's history is entwined with a few other Internet companies. Twitter's founders are Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey. A few years before Twitter was born, Williams created Blogger, a popular Web journal service. Internet giant Google purchased Blogger, and Williams began to work directly for Google. Before long, he and Google employee Stone left the Internet giant to form a new company called Odeo.

Twitter founders, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey
Kara Andrade/AFP/Getty Images
Biz Stone (left) and Jack Dorsey are co-founders of San Francisco-based Obvious, the 10-person startup behind the popular Twitter social messaging service.

Odeo is a podcasting service company. According to Williams, he didn't have a personal interest in podcasting, and under his guidance, the company temporarily lost focus. However, one of Odeo's products was just beginning to gather steam: Twitter, a new messaging service. Stone gave Twitter its name, comparing the short spurts of information exchange to the chirping of birds and pointing out that many ring tones sound like bird calls [source: San Francisco Chronicle].

As the service became a more important part of Odeo, Stone and Williams decided to form a new company with Twitter as the flagship product. Williams bought out Odeo and Twitter from investors, then combined the existing company and service into a new venture called Obvious Corporation. Jack Dorsey joined the team and began to develop new ways for users to interface with Twitter, including through computer applications like instant messaging and e-mail. In March 2006, Twitter split off from Obvious to become its own company,Twitter Incorporated.

What are Tweets?
Simply put, a Tweet is a message sent on Twitter. To send or receive a Tweet, you have to create a free account with Twitter. You also need to have friends and contacts with Twitter accounts -- otherwise you're typing to the void. Of course, you could use Twitter as a blog and keep all of your Tweets public, meaning anyone could read them on your personal Twitter profile page. But if you want to use Twitter as a way to keep in touch with friends, you'll need to convince them to sign up, too.

Once you have an account, you can begin building your network of contacts. You can invite other users to receive your Tweets, and you can follow other members' posts. As you receive Tweets, you may discover you're looking into only part of a conversation. You'll see your contact's posts, but if he or she is sending messages in response to someone who isn't in your network, you won't see the other person's messages.
Tweets have a few limitations, mostly due to the fact that Twitter's design relies heavily on cell phone text messages. Tweets can only have up to 140 characters before the system cuts off the rest of the message for cell phone users. Members can read full Tweets on their Twitter Web pages or by using a third-party developer's desktop or Web-based application.
Just Make It Short
Some people call Twitter micro-blogging -- very short messages. Users can update people about what's going on, like a blog, but the messages themselves are limited in length by system constraints.
Tweets can only contain text -- members can't include pictures, video or other computer files with Tweet messages. Members who want people in their network to look at multimedia content must find a Web page to host the files, then send a message containing the page's address to their networks. Twitter converts all addresses more than 30 characters in length into tiny URLs -- links that compress the full Web site address to conserve space.
Twitter makes it easy to opt into or out of networks. If you join Twitter and find that you're being bombarded by Tweets from a particular member, you can choose to stop following his or her feed. All you have to do is send a message to Twitter that says "off," plus the chatty member's user name. Later, if you find that you miss the sender's updates, you can type "follow," plus the user's name. As long as the sender has kept you in his or her network, you'll start receiving those messages again.

Twitter's API

Twitter bases its application programming interface (API) off the Representational State Transfer (REST) architecture. REST architecture refers to a collection of network design principles that define resources and ways to address and access data. The architecture is a design philosophy, not a set of blueprints -- there's no single prescribed arrangement of computers, servers and cables. For Twitter, a REST architecture in part means that the service works with most Web syndication formats.
Web syndication is a pretty simple concept: An application gathers information from one source and sends it out to various destinations. There are a few syndication formats used on the Web. Twitter is compatible with two of them -- Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and Atom Syndication Format (Atom). Both formats retrieve data from one resource and send it to another.

Speaking Twitter's Language
Both RSS and Atom are based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) format. Markup languages identify structures within data formats called documents. XML doesn't have a strict set of rules: It complements other languages like Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) by adding tags to describe the data within documents. The tags aren't visible to humans; programmers use them so that computers can identify and manipulate the data within a document. To learn more about how computers read tags and markup languages, read How Web Semantics Work.

 Both Web syndication formats compatible with Twitter consist of a few lines of code. A Web page administrator can embed it into the code of his or her site. Visitors can subscribe to the syndication service -- called a feed -- and receive an update every time the administrator updates the Web page. Twitter uses this feature to allow members to post messages to a network of other Twitter members. In effect, Twitter members subscribe to other members' feeds.
By allowing third-party developers partial access to its API, Twitter allows them to create programs that incorporate Twitter's services. Obvious Corp's applications include desktop feed reader programs that let users post and retrieve messages on Twitter's network using a simple, independent interface. Current third-party applications include:

  • Twitterlicious and Twitterific, two applications that allow users to access Twitter through desktop applications on PCs and Macs, respectively 
  • OutTwit, a Windows application that allows users to access Twitter through the Outlook e-mail program
  • Tweet Scan, which allows users to search public Twitter posts in real time using either a customized search engine or Firefox's search box.
  • Twessenger, which integrates with the Windows Live Messenger 8.1 instant messenger program
  • Twittervision, which integrates a Twitter feed into Google Maps. You can watch public posts go live through a world map 
  • Flotzam, which integrates Twitter with Facebook, Flickr and blogs
  • iTunes to Twitter, an application for Mac computers that broadcasts the title of the song currently playing in the user's iTunes to his or her network
  • TwitterBox, a Twitter application that works inside the virtual community of Second Life
That's just a small sample of Twitter applications available, and developers introduce new ones every day.

Source :  HowStuffWorks - Twitter

3 Whisper

  1. Odd Review [ October 27, 2009 at 8:21 PM   ]

    i see, there's just not how they worked, but it's telling us about the maker.

    another nice information for sharing.

  2. CESAR R. KLINGER [ October 28, 2009 at 4:26 AM   ]

    tienes excelente información sobre el Twitter, espero que sigas visitando mi blog por que voy a publicar post referentes a este tema.espero que sigamos en contacto mas constante.

    have excellent information on Twitter, I hope you continue visiting my blog that I post regarding this issue that we tema.espero most constant contact.

  3. Mr. J [ October 29, 2009 at 7:07 AM   ]

    @Cesar, Odd Review
    Thanks for your comment. i really appreciated.

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