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Bill Gates joins Twitter

The software legend and philanthropist kicks off his microblog with entries about Haiti and his foundation work.

Bill Gates has launched a Twitter feed, with his early posts focused on the events in Haiti and his foundation work. Screenshot by Ina Fried/CNET

Bill Gates is many things: software giant, philanthropist, and now Twitter user.

As of a few hours ago, the Microsoft chairman is one of the millions offering brief takes on their world to anyone who wants to follow them. I doubt that he'll be sharing what he had for breakfast or bemoaning the fact that his cell phone just dropped a call, but Gates is now on Twitter.

The "@BillGates" account existed before, but it wasn't actually Gates or anyone on his staff doing the posts. Now, though, the account is held by Gates and is also one of the pages that Twitter lists as a "verified account."

The first post by the real Bill Gates was a note that he plans to release the second of his annual foundation letters on Monday, charting the progress and challenges in his philanthropic efforts.

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"'Hello World," Gates wrote. "Hard at work on my foundation letter--publishing on 1/25."

The first foundation letter (PDF), posted a year ago, noted that it planned to increase its spending in 2009, despite the recession.

Gates also retweeted posts from Time and Ryan Seacrest on Haiti, thanking Seacrest for his work in the quake relief effort.

As of this writing, Gates has about 8,800 followers, but I'd expect that to jump very quickly. It was 3,000 followers when I started typing this post.

Among the first people Gates started following--even before @Microsoft--was actress/singer Ashley Tisdale. Tisdale was added, I'm told, because of the work she does with Microsoft and her efforts working with developing countries.

Gates was also once on Facebook, but he said he eventually gave up on the service after being inundated with friend requests.

Update, 5 p.m. PST: Sure enough, Gates has already topped 50,000 followers within just a few hours. He's following only 40 people so far. In addition to Tisdale, Gates is following an array of folks, from early eBay executive Pierre Omidyar to ABC's George Stephanopolous (and yours truly). He's also following group accounts, including the Microsoft corporate account to the Carnegie Foundation to Malaria no More.