Years Of Twitter Mentions Reveal How The Social Network Entered The Mainstream

Years Of Twitter Mentions Reveal How The Social Network Entered The Mainstream

'New York Times' descriptions evolved with the popular site over the past seven years.

Sara Boboltz
  • 7 october 2013

Technology writers face a difficult task: how to distill what are, at times, completely foreign concepts into concise descriptions for readers. What should a “new, free communications service” that “enables subscribers to electronically (and almost instantaneously) broadcast what they’re doing” through a type of “group-messaging application” be called? Well, now we’d just call it ‘Twitter.’ But that wasn’t always the case.

Quartz writer Matt Phillips poured through the thousands of instances Twitter appeared in The New York Times from 2006 to the present, taking note of how descriptive phrasings evolved. His findings make for a brief yet fascinating case study on the impact of emerging technology, as we see how the site has grown in our cultural lexicon from “blogging-like tool for quick updates” to “leading social network,” mirroring its growth of relevance in our day-to-day lives. And now, in light of ongoing news coverage on the company’s planned IPO, Twitter requires no introduction at all.

Below we’ve reposted a few of the excerpts, which can be viewed in full here.

November 24, 2006

“…a blogging-like tool for quick updates”

November 29, 2007

“This short-messaging service allows you to ‘micro-blog’ your life in 140 character bursts.”

September 22, 2008

“…which lets users send short messages with updates on what they are doing, is popular with a tech-savvy crowd but crashes frequently and has not figured out a way to earn significant revenue.”

February 3, 2009

“…the micro-blogging platform”

October 31, 2010

“…one of the rare but fabled Web companies with a growth rate that resembles the shape of a hockey stick”

January 10, 2011

“…the popular microblogging service”

October 7, 2012

“Bankrolled by venture capitalists, it has grown into a multibillion-dollar enterprise with 140 million users worldwide.”

July 16, 2013

“With its 140-character limit, Twitter exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder…”



Photo by InteriorArchitects.

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