Osama's death breaks Twitter tweet record

Ronny Kerr · May 2, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/19f7

Half the site's trending topics have to do with the attack on his compound and his resulting death

Twitter has confirmed that on the night of Sunday, May 1, 2011, when the U.S. government announced that it had succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden, the microblogging site experienced a record rate of sustained tweets. Between 10:45 and 12:30 am ET, there was an average of 3,440 tweets per second (TPS).

At 11 pm ET, 15 minutes after the major news outlets confirmed Bin Laden’s death, there were 5,106 TPS. At 11:45 pm ET, when President Obama wrapped up his address to the nation, there were 5,008 TPS.

Neither peak bested the all-time record of 6,939 TPS, set four seconds past midnight on New Year’s Day in Japan.

Throughout Obama’s entire speech, the average TPS was 3,400.

For me, as with many others, Twitter proved to be the first place to hear of Osama’s death. While this will surely reignite arguments over whether a social site, especially one that is fast-paced and real-time like Twitter, is a viable place to discover breaking news, the simple fact remains that it has already fulfilled that role. Instances like this, in my opinion, far outweigh the negative effects of misleading rumors and fake news bits that so often flood Twitter trending topics.

Speaking of trending topics, #osama remains firmly planted at the top, a place it took over last night. Several other related trends are helping to dominate the list: #obl (short for Osama bin Laden), Saddam Hussein (the last major US target), Situation Room (the 24/7 conference room at the White House for dealing with crises around the world), Navy Seals (who carried out the attack on Osama’s compound) and Abbottabad (the city in which the attack took place).

Now I just can’t wait to see what the TPS record will be when the President announces that terrorism has been vanquished, the war has ended and peace will reign forever. (I wish I wasn’t joking.)

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What is Twitter?

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 Twitter.com, 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. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

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.

How do you make money from Twitter?

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 Twitter.com, 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. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

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.