Twitter: Breaking news on Osama, Mumbai attack and more

I was surprised to read that Giga Om founder Om Malik, one of the most perceptive tech bloggers, thought Twitter was a waste of time when he first saw it. But that was in 2006 when Twitter had just been created by Jack Dorsey.

“At first, Twitter appealed mainly to techies. Nobody else really noticed it much until November 2008 when a terrorist takeover of fancy hotels in Mumbai flooded the site with tweets about what was happening, way ahead of any news bureau reports,” recalls Mary Cross in her book, Twitterati, Bloggerati: How Blogs and Twitter Are Transforming Popular Culture.

I was certainly using Twitter by 2008 though I can’t recall when I became a Twitter user. Here’s one of my posts on the Pakistani terrorist attack on Mumbai based on information I got from Twitter. 

It was on Twitter that I first heard about the death of Osama bin Laden. I was up surfing the net that night — May 2, 2011, according to Wikipedia — when US Navy Seals swooped down on the al-Qaeda leader’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It was hours after the first report that his death was officially confirmed. Here’s what I blogged that day, using Storify, about the man who tweeted the hit on Osama bin Laden.

The memories come back to me as Twitter prepares to go public with an IPO like Facebook did in May 2012.

Giga Om notes: “Twitter’s note that this is a confidential filing means the company’s annual revenue is less than $1 billion.” But it adds that “the company has recently received bids from hedge funds offering to buy shares in the company from employees and investors for between $26 and $28 a share, which would value Twitter at $14 billion. The company has raised just under $1 billion in funding over the last several years.”

I love Twitter as a news junkie. It’s the quickest way to get the news. With over 500 million registered users, it still lags behind Facebook, which has over a billion. But it is certainly the second most talked about social network.

Google+ is also said to have 500 million registered users. So, which is the second most powerful network (after Facebook) — Google+ or Twitter — may be open to question. Google+ may be more useful for bloggers since it is linked to Google, the most popular search engine. The blogger’s Google+ profile may show up with his blog post on Google search. That will increase his visibility.

Twitter, on the other hand, is more useful as a news source. When you want the new fast, you go on Twitter.

I admire Twitter’s co-founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Williams also set up Pyra Labs, which launched Blogger in 1999. So he has created two of the most popular online platforms, Blogger and Twitter. Biz Stone was also associated with Blogger. Blogger and Pyra Labs were bought by Google in 2003.

I just wish it were possible to do longer searches on Twitter. For example, find the original tweet by the Pakistani IT consultant Sohaib Athar, who first tweeted about US helicopters in Abbottabad without even realizing they were out to get Osama. Twitter is great at breaking news. I wish Twitter were also good at preserving history.