@POTUS: President Obama gets exclusive Twitter account

President Barack Obama's twitter handle sets a new world record for gaining 1 million followers in the shortest time, but he'll have to pass it on to his successor.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
3 min read

President Barack Obama has started tweeting from the newly created @POTUS account. Getty Images/Pool

Breaking news: @POTUS is finally on Twitter and holds a new world record.

President Barack Obama launched his very own Twitter account Monday, using the handle @POTUS, which is Washington-speak for "president of the United States," with a simple, yet effective attention-grabbing message:

"Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account," Obama tweeted. The tweet had more than 160,000 retweets and was favorited more than 200,000 times.

His new account, which was quickly verified by Twitter, had more than 2 million followers by Tuesday after gaining more than a million on Monday. The account set a new Guinness World Record by amassing 1 million followers in five hours -- surpassing the mark set by Ironman actor Robert Downey, Jr., who attracted 1 million followers in just under 24 hours last year.

The president's account is following 65 Twitter users, including several members of his White House staff, former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, Columbia and Harvard universities, and his beloved pro sports teams from Chicago.

The White House said in a blog post that the account will serve as a new way for Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.

"President Obama is committed to making his Administration the most open and participatory in history, and @POTUS will give Americans a new venue to engage on the issues that matter most to them," the blog said.

@POTUS joins first lady Michelle Obama, who has been using the @FLOTUS username (for "first lady...") on her Twitter and Instagram accounts since 2013. Vice President Joe Biden has been tweeting from the @VP username since 2011.

The White House said the @POTUS username will be passed on to future presidents. Later, former President Clinton jokingly asked Obama via Twitter, "Does that username stay with the office? #askingforafriend," a semi-obvious reference regarding his wife, Hillary Clinton, who announced last month she's running for president next year.

"Good question, @billclinton," Obama tweeted in response. "The handle comes with the house. Know anyone interested in @FLOTUS?

Obama previously tweeted under @BarackObama, an account run by the staff of his Organizing for Action group that has nearly 60 million followers, and @WhiteHouse, where he would sign his tweets at the end with "-BO."

The @BarackObama account once held the record for the most-retweeted tweet, with the short Election Night 2012 message of "Four more years" and a photo of Barack and Michelle hugging. (It lost that honor during the 2014 Oscars ceremony to a star-studded selfie tweeted by host Ellen Degeneres.)

Of course, Obama's colleagues have taken to Twitter to engage in some good-natured ribbing.

"The bear is loose on the Twittersphere! Welcome to the interwebs, Mr. President," White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted.

Obama isn't the first owner of the @POTUS username. That distinction goes to Steve D'Alimonte, a program director for a media-driven violence prevention program for youth in Toronto. D'Alimonte told CNET Monday that in 2008, a friend of his told him about this new social media site called Twitter.

He signed up with the username @POTUS because he was a big fan of the TV show, "The West Wing." He kept the Twitter handle until 2011, when he was in the US (first in Seattle and then in the San Francisco Bay Area) on a three-year work visa with his wife. He decided to get rid of it to use @stevedalimonte, instead.

"I was looking for a job and figured I should use something more reflective," he said, adding that he tried to register the @POTUS username to another email address but was unable to. "I kind of just forgot about it and hadn't thought about it until today when I saw that Mr. Obama is now using it.

"I guess I probably should've tried harder to maintain the handle," he added, laughing.

Now, back in Toronto after his visa expired last year, D'Alimonte, whose Twitter account says he wants to make his way back to the Bay Area, tweeted a request Monday to Obama:

"You're welcome for the handle @POTUS. I accept green cards as thank you gifts."

Update, 3 p.m. PT: Adds new total of @POTUS followers and account breaking a world record for fastest to gain a million followers.