More kids going online in age of Web 2.0

Ronny Kerr · July 7, 2009 · Short URL:

Growing up with social media, young generations seeing world shrink

babyCompLet me see a show of hands for all the people in the room who can fairly accurately emulate the sequence of beeps and boops made by a 28k modem dialing into the Internet. Who here doesn’t have warm memories of the robotic AOL voice declaring, “You’ve got mail!” as you signed in? Do you remember what your very first ad-infested Geocities webpage looked like?

Consider the fact that today’s younger generations will soon look back fondly on the days when Web sites used to ask you what you were doing and the dominant video upload service only let users upload ten minutes of video.

For now, however, children aged 2-11 are thriving in the Web 2.0 world. Nielsen Online released an impressive collection of statistics this week, essentially concluding that not only are more kids in that age group going online, but they are also spending more time there than ever before.

As of May 2009, nearly 16 million children are going online, making up almost a tenth of the entire active online community. That latest peak has been reached by an 18% growth over the past five years, almost double the 10% growth seen in the adult population. On top of this, the U.S. Census Bureau reports a 1% decrease over that same interval in the numbers of that particular age group, making the growth appear even more startling.

Furthermore, kids have been staying on longer: about 63% longer, according to Nielsen. Again, the adult population has also increased its time online, but only by 36%--measly, compared to the massive growth exhibited by the younger age groups.

What does it mean, exactly, that so many children are growing up alongside the bursting growth of social media and Web 2.0? The best bet is that breaking technologies today will quickly become taken for granted.

Sharing intimate connections with celebrity or politician—made most widespread by the popularity of Twitter—will probably soon come to be expected by users. Daily substantial updates from public officials may evolve to become the number one source for learning about the latest political doings.

In the most extreme, one must imagine that the constant flow of friend updates, the vast plethora of visual and audio content from around the world, and the all-around instantaneity of Web 2.0 must combine to create a shrinking effect on the world, especially for the generations immersed in these latest technologies.

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Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

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Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

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There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

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What's next for Twitter?

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We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.