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From 140 Characters to 280
The original message was limited to 140 characters, which was derived from the 160-character text message. The Twitter message was 140 characters plus 20 for the user's address (see SMS). In 2017, the message part was doubled to 280 characters.
From Personal to Commercial and Political
Twitter was designed as a social network to keep friends and colleagues informed throughout the day. However, it became widely used for commercial and political purposes to keep customers, voters and fans up-to-date as well as to encourage feedback. By 2013, daily tweets reached the half billion mark.
After establishing a Twitter account at www.twitter.com, individuals can import their email addresses as well as use the Twitter search to locate and invite people. Tweets can be made public and sent to anyone requesting the feed, or they can be sent only to pre-approved followers.
Messages can be sent and received via cellphone messaging (see MMS) or a Twitter app. To follow a feed on the Twitter website, type the feed name after the URL; for example, www.twitter.com/microsoft.
Forward that Tweet (Retweet)
Twitter becomes a viral conduit when users receive an interesting message and forward it to their followers. The ease of retweeting can quickly build large audiences. See retweet.
Replies and Direct Messages (DMs)
Initially a one-way broadcast from writer to follower, Twitter added a reply function that turned Twitter into a discussion group.
Tweets can also be private. Writers can send followers a private "direct message" (DM). Followers can do likewise, and they can also delete their DMs from the writer's inbox. In 2015, the length of a DM was increased from 140 to 10,000 characters.
When someone replies to a Twitter posting, they use their Twitter account name preceded by an @ sign; for example, "@JohnDoe."
A hashtag is a number sign (#) prefix used to identify a topic so that it can be looked up. Hashtags are created for major entities such as organizations, sports teams and political parties; however, they can be created for anything. For example, people commenting about a Twitter event in New York added the hashtag #nyctweetup to their posts, and all those tweets could be viewed as a group by searching for #nyctweetup.
From Mobile Blogging to Microblogging
Twitter expanded "mobile blogging," the process of updating a blog from a cellphone, into updating a short activities blog (the "microblog") and immediately sending the update to followers. For more Twitter vocabulary, see Twitterese. See verified Twitter account, Vine and microblog.