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Somethings you didn’t know about Twitter

We visit it multiple times a day, covet its approval and think about its 140-character nuggets of truth when its not around – it’s fair to say Twitter has consumed our daily lives in the nine and a bit years since its launch. But how far has the micro-blogging-service-turned-news-portal come?

As 2015 comes to a close and we get emotional about everything the past 12 months have brought, it’s time to recognise how the Facebook and Instagram rival is about more than just snooping on your favourite celebs and sharing every achievement with the world, no matter how minor.

1. There’s a very good reason why you’re restricted to 140 characters

Twitter character limit

Once upon a time, in a pre-WhatsApp era of flip-phones and the Nokia 3210, Twitter started out as an SMS-based service that let users send short texts to groups of friends. These early days of the social service shaped what was to come.

With single text messages capped at 160 characters, Twitter limited its messages to 140 characters, with the remaining 20 spaces reserved for usernames. Despite having ditched its SMS-based roots long ago, the cap remains as one of Twitter’s most defining features, well, at least for now. There have been rumblings the cap will be scrapped, but nothing has yet been confirmed.

2. Twitter didn’t create the hashtag

Hashtag

The hashtag might now be an intrinsic part of the social service and synonymous with the Twitter brand, but this wasn’t the first to make use of the context-highlighting standout tag. Used regularly in Internet Relay Chat as early as 1988 as a means of grouping users, Twitter’s hashtag has it roots in Flickr’s tagging system.

First used by technology innovator Chris Messina, and originally mocked as nerdy by Twitter’s founders, just like the first tweet (see below), the first hashtag wasn’t a classic either, with Messina dropping the #barcamp tag.

3. Dorsey sent the first tweet – and it wasn’t exactly “a classic”

Co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first Tweet on March 21, 2006. The infamous words he uttered to bring this social giant to life? “just setting up my twttr”.

Despite not featuring a cat, meme, or cat-themed meme, this tweet has since entered the annals of infamy, being retweeted more than 64,000 times and favourited on some 44,000 occasions so far.

4. Katy Perry is the most followed person in the world

Katy Perry Twitter

There’s no being upstaged by left sharks here. The cherry chapstick-loving pop princess has an unrivalled 78.3 million Twitter followers – take that Justin Bieber (68m) and Barack Obama (64.6m).

What makes Russell Brand’s ex so popular? Well, in the past few weeks she’s treated her global following to such gems as “Conciousness = creativity”, “When you feelin yo self all night & then see that you’ve had quinoa in your teeth the whole time”, and “I just tasted a wine that smelled like the museum I visited earlier” – all Twitter gold.

5. The most Tweeted emoji is the word of the year

Middle finger emoji

It’s been a big 12 months for the crying with laughter emoji. Having been crowned the Oxford Dictionary’s 2015 Word of the Year despite, you know, not actually being a word, the mixed-emotions pictogram has now taken the mantle as the most Tweeted emoji in all the land.

Beating the hearty eyes smiley and crying emoji to the not-so-coveted title, the crying with laughter emoticon headlined a top ten that including a number of standards – heart, kissy smiley – and a few left field additions – clapping hands, fire emoji. Seriously though, where’s the smiley poo?!

6. Twitter was invented in South Park

South Park

No, not that South Park, but a small neighbourhood in San Francisco. Founded by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and the wonderfully named Biz Stone (not Kenny, Stan and Cartman), the idea for Twitter was originally bandied around in a playground under the working title ‘Stat.us’.

Coming full circle, Twitter has since been give the South Park treatment – yes, that South Park – and often acts as a sounding board for the latest TV-based outrage – definitely that South Park.

7. Oh, and it wasn’t called Twitter originally either

Twitter generic

Before becoming a global phenomenon, Twitter went by another name. Dropping the vowels, the short, sharp social service was dubbed ‘twttr’.

While this would surely help you adhere to its 140-character limit, it’s not got the best ring to it and could be open to some slightly foul-mouthed interpretation. Less than six months after launch, the Facey-B rival had dropped the text-speak and become the Twitter we know and love today – at least by title.

8. If Twitter was a country, it’s would be the world’s fourth biggest

Twitter generic

At the time of writing there are some 316 million active monthly users. If Twitter’s user base was a national population it would make it the fourth biggest country in the world behind China, India and America.

Around 80 per cent of these users access the service via mobile, with a staggering half a billion tweets sent ever day – no wonder your emoji-packed ramblings are often overlooked.

9. But that’s still a long, long way from overtaking Facebook

Facebook Notifications

Twitter and Facebook might be seen as near parallels in the social networking space, but the gulf between the two – at least in terms of active monthly users – is gargantuan.

Team Zuckerberg doesn’t just lead the social space race, it dominates it, with more than 1 billion more actively monthly users than its character-limiting rival – yes, really. Facebook’s 1.49 billion monthly users account for one seventh of the world’s population, figures Twitter can only dream of.

10. Harry Styles is the most followed UK individual

Harry Styles in One Direction's 'Perfect' music video.

With 26.3 million people keeping tabs on his every thought, the hairy element of One Direction is the most followed Brit on Twitter. Edging out Adele to the crown (24.1m followers), Style triumphed over his fellow band mates to take the title.

Liam Payne is the third most followed Brit (21.4m) with Louis Tomlinson fourth (20.8m) and Zayn Malik sixth (16.6m) behind Emma Watson. In fact, the only reason One Direction haven’t taken a clean sweep is that Niall Horan is Irish.

11. Oh, and the Twitter bird has a name and it’s called…

Twitter bird

Larry. The logo bird is called Larry. As in Larry Bird. As in Larry Bird the former Boston Celtics basketball star. Yeah? No, us neither, but apparently he was a big deal stateside, and not just for being 6′ 9” tall.

Sadly, while the bird got a name, Twitter’s other mascot, the much-loved but equally hated Fail Whale – which showed up when the site was over capacity or suffering downtime – was never named before being ditched in 2013 for its negative connotations.

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