Twitter is micro-blogging, a cross over between blogging and instant messangers such as ichat and MSN. It is also considered to be a type of social networking. Twitter was founded in 2006 and has been growing in popularity, especially in the last few months (to the extent that we here at web-empire now have ‘What is this Twitter thing?’ as our most asked question).

Each person has their own homepage with twitter were they can post messages up to 140 characters long. These are known as tweets and can be thoughts, what you are currently doing, links to things you find interesting etc…

The tweets appear on your home page, and you can choose to follow other people’s tweets which will appear on your homepage too. Tweets also appear on the public timeline which is a page that shows everybody’s tweets – this, however, has become less interesting and it is hard to catch your own tweets the bigger twitter becomes.

You may also direct a tweet at a friend or accaintance by putting their name after an @ sign in the tweet – these tweets will be brought to their attention as being directed at them, and their name will become a link to their homepage when people view your tweet.

As well as using Twitter’s web site, there are many Twitter client applications you can run on your own computer, which provide an easier interface. In many of these, new tweets from your friends will appear as a small popup window, much like an instant messaging system.

There are also Twitter clients that run on smartphones and PDAs, or you can tweet via SMS/text messages from any mobile phone.

For the community/social journalism side of blogging twitter is helping to get stories noticed or for headlines to break before the article is even written! There is also Twitpic which is a site that allows you to post pictures through twitter.

Twitter has a direct message service on it, for sending private messages to other users, though this too is restricted to the short character count.

There is unique form of spaming going on in twitter where accounts are made, often with nonsense posts (though sometimes not), the whole perpose of which is to get people to click through to adverts and things.

Having said that many companies and individauls such as writers use Twitter as an effective marketing tool, with interesting tid bits for their followers to engage with. However there are considered to be some security risks associated with Twitter as they will share information they have collected with ‘third parties’.

Twitter has recently gone main stream due to the news coverage of Stephan Fry’s usage, much to the horror of those who have been using it and who have watched it grow. This means marketing companies have finally noticed it and that the amount of spam or spoof accounts is likely to sky rocket.

However it does mean that more of the poeple you know will now actually be using it. There are also RSS feeds which you can add to your blogs, social networking sites and websites that show your tweets.

Twitter is fun and versatile and when things are broken they have a lovely picture of the Fail Whale being carried by little birds which we here at Web-Empire love. There is even a Fail Whale fan club complete with merchandise!

However, Twitter is centralised and has control of your account – by it all being based on their servers – this is a potential risk for security reasons as it is one large target to be hacked plus it means if anything happens to the central organisation you could loose all the contacts you’ve made.

But it is free and this means you do not need access to your own space on a server. There are also news letter emails occasionally, too. We like Twitter but it is not the only micro-blogging system which is something we will hopefully cover in future posts.

We hope this has been informative from all of us here at Web-Empire.

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