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 Peter Takes on History 

July 15, 2006

X, formerly Twitter and Elon Musk, formerly respected

Today is the birthday of “X”. Not the letter but the SMS or Short Message Service that was launched on July 15th, 2006 as Twitter. The service went public in 2013 at a value of $31 billion, 6 years before it made one cent of profit. Not bad for a little blue bird named Larry.
Elon Musk put an end to Twitter as we knew it on October 28th, 2022. But, hey, what a run!
In just 16 years Twitter became totally integrated into our American lives.
At the time of Musk’s acquisition the company had a worldwide user base of 330 million people including 83% of world leaders.
Elon Musk is the richest man in the world but if wealth was simply measured in followers ... well, Musk would still be the richest with nearly 169 million followers. The second richest man would be Barack Obama with nearly 132 million. Trump's doing alright. He's in the American top 10 … after Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Rhianna, Taylor Swift. Well, let’s just say he sits comfortably between Norenda Modi and Lady Gaga with approximately 87 million.
Twitter is an American success story ... with a twisted plot.
In early 2005 entrepreneurs - I’ll call them Twitter A and Twitter B - decide to cash in on the new concept called podcasting by creating a podcasting company called Odeo. They raise millions in funding. Two months later Apple announced they’d be giving podcasting away for free in iTunes and put Odeo out of business in one day. Twitter A gathers their fourteen employees (Twitter B thru Twitter O) and says, “Got any ideas?” B says, “Check this out.” I’ve got this app that lets you announce your status, like, “Hey! Look what I’m doing!”
A is unimpressed but B, C and D get excited. A says, “OK, you go have fun with your little app. Let’s call it “FriendStalker.” B says, that’s a terrible name! Let’s call it Twitter. That year C posts the first tweet ever! It read, “just setting up my twitter.”, OK, it’s no “What hath God wrought?” but still, a monumental moment.
In the meantime Twitter A calls the Odeo investors together and says, “Look, we surrender. iTunes killed us. Tell you what, I like you guys, I want to see us work together again so I’ll buy your shares so you’ll all get your money back.” The investors are floored. No one does that! B and C say, “Wait, what?” Once A has all the shares, A fires B. Claims irreconcilable differences.
Six months later Twitter is the biggest thing at the music and creativity festival South by Southwest in Austin. Entertainers see a way to talk directly to fans. Public figures see it as a way to avoid the media filter … and fact checking. Companies realize it’s not only a way to advertise but a way to interact with people who want to talk about their toothpaste.
Then on January 15th, 2009, a US Airways flight crashed on NYC’s Hudson River. A photo posted to Twitter broke the news and journalists realized that Twitter is a 24/7/365 tip line!
It took 3 years, 2 months and 1 day to go from the first tweet to the billionth. Now, a day’s worth of tweets would fill a 10 million page book!
Needless to say, “Twitter A” (a guy named Evan Williams) is very, very rich. Twitter B (a guy named Noah Glass) made some money but is mostly disappointed and disillusioned. And the rest of us are left to sort out X-formerly-known-as-Twitter’s truths, half truths, rumors, jokes and toothpaste talk.
WTF hath God wrought?

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