What is Twitter?

No, the answer is not 42. Though if it was as simple as that, life would be much better.

Anyway, this post is for all those of my contemporaries out there who don’t know what Twitter is / don’t know how to use Twitter / can’t understand what the hell they’re doing on Twitter / cannot appreciate Twitter.

I thought I’d do all of you / us a favour and make this a Q/A post. I will be as denigrating as I want to because people do not understand what kind of a phenomenon Twitter really is.


Q: What is Twitter?

A: Twitter is defined as a microblogging service. A blog is where you post something (like this). A microblog is for status updates. The reason you use Twitter are three-fold:

1) You update your status so that people who follow you can know what’s going on with you.

2) You follow your friends and see their status updates to see what’s up with them.

3) You follow news websites, celebrities and the like to keep up with their news.


Q: So, what’s the big deal? I can do all that in Facebook as well.

A: Twitter is a revolution. It is utterly different from Facebook. While Facebook is filled with spammers and trolls, Twitter is filled either with intellectuals (like myself 😛 ) or with spam bots who can be blocked with one click.

Also, Twitter noticeably lacks “apps” which make enough spam content on Facebook to irritate some 700 million users. Twitter is pitched as a simple microblogging platform and that is all it ever is / ever should be.

Besides, following news on Twitter and Facebook are 2 different things. There are 2 reasons for this:

1) Companies and organisations that give news content online do it mostly on Twitter. Facebook is just their auxiliary option. The fact that they can post on Twitter in small 140 character updates, have their own timeline where they can look back on the updates without the hindrances of such nuances as “comments” or “likes” appeals to them.

2) Twitter has the cleanest interface that you can think of. Now, there are 2 ways to follow news .. either you add everyone who is tweeting news about something to your timeline, or all the users create a hashtag and you search for that hashtag and follow all the tweets there.

Example: Say an earthquake occurs in Atlantis, one user will create a hastag like #atlantisquake .. The power of social media will propagate this hashtag in such a way that within 5 minutes, well over a thousand users will be using that hashtag. Now, lets say there are people on site in Atlantis tweeting about it, people offsite who have relatives stuck there asking for help, people on site asking for help etc – you can see ALL of these things if you are searching for that hashtag. Yes, its that simple.


Q: Ok, that’s too advanced for me to comprehend. Why would these things help me? I just want to keep up with my friends and check what photos they upload.

A: Oh ok fine. Then, please go back to Facebook. Twitter is not for you.


Q: Fine. Let’s say I’m interested. What else can Twitter do?

A: Not much else. This is what people love Twitter for. The people working on it are wise enough to know what the users like and they don’t want to do mundane optimisations which will spoil the user experience.


Q: Hmm .. What about media content? Like photos and videos and all that?

A: This is the most opportune moment I can answer this. Twitter recently released a photo uploading service. Its is the most complete image search engine anyone can hope for assuming people tag the pictures they upload with the proper tags.


Q: Wtf? Didn’t Twitter have any way of viewing photos before this?

A: They did. You uploaded photos in another service like Twitpic, yfrog etc. and posted a link along with a small one liner on Twitter. Using hashtags helped in searches.


Q: Ok fine. Any down sides?

A: Oh yes. As with all “social” media, this is powered by the people. You have to be responsible about what you post, what you share etc.

For example, some fool made a mistake and posted that Abdul Kalam died even though it was just his friend who’d died. It spread like wildfire (as is its wont) and finally, at the stage where even news websites started believing it, it died down. So, it’s on your part to be a responsible netizen and do what’s right.


Q: How do I join Twitter?

A: Head over here and create an account. That’s it. You’re done. You can start using Twitter right away.


Please spread the joy and make people aware. Also, in case any of your friends pesters you as to what Twitter is, direct them here 🙂

PS: Any questions? I’m sorry .. You gotta go Google. There is only so much time I’m willing to spare in making people Internet-aware. Comments? Post below.


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