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Going Back In Time on Twitter

July 9th, 2012 by Ryan Ozawa · 1 Comment · Social Media, Technology, The Web

TwitterWhen I first signed up for Twitter in November 2006, it was even harder to explain than it is today. Twitter was born as a group SMS messaging service (a side project of a now defunct podcasting company), evolved into a “microblogging” platform, and eventually grew into a social network and a major player in the technology space.

Although I’m disappointed to see that Twitter is now shifting its focus from being an open platform to just being another publishing company, it remains my favorite service. And there’s no question that Twitter has transformed many aspects of online life, including personal publishing, commercial marketing, and newsgathering.

But one of the greatest tragedies of Twitter’s massive success that its database of content is simply too large to search in its entirety. With over 300 million messages posted each day, it’s no surprise that you can’t go very far back into its archives. I’ve posted over 35,000 messages to Twitter (which isn’t all that much spread out over more than five years), and  I hadn’t thought to archive my own posts until it was far, far too late to capture those exciting early days.

Enter Kellan Elliott-McCrea, now Chief Technology Officer at Etsy. He somehow managed to obtain the first messages ever posted to Twitter, and has posted them online as a searchable archive. Now anyone can sift through a year’s worth of status updates, beginning from Biz Stone’s “just setting up my twttr,” to read just what sorts of things people shared back then (which were not very different from what’s shared today).

It’s interesting to read how people described Twitter to new and other users, what things they expected it to do, and what they felt was the “right way” to use it. Kellan’s archive has allowed people to document the evolution of the ‘@’ symbol as a conversational marker into an almost universal form of identity.

But it’s also interesting to read through my own first Twitter posts, starting on November 20, 2006:

Though somewhat narcissistic, five years stretches far enough back that I feel there’s at least some historical value to read through one-line recaps of my day. For example, my daughter turned nine (she’s now 14) on the same day I left my bank job:

Here’s my first “LOST” stalking tweet:

Here’s my first gas price tweet:

And here’s the moment I finally fell out of love with Palm’s Treo smartphones with the announcement of the first Apple iPhone:

If you were an early Twitter user, check it out. And even if you weren’t, the archive provides a unique opportunity to see what Twitter was like well before most people had any idea what it was for.

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