Twitter in 10 tweets

The social network is celebrating 10 years of letting folks share their thoughts in 140 characters or fewer. Here are the moments that stand out.

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
4 min read

Twitter is turning 10 on Monday.

The social network has become immensely popular on a very simple theory: Say what you want in 140 characters or fewer. (That sentence is 123 characters, including spaces.)

Though that may not sound like a lot of room to maneuver, Twitter's users have figured out how to craft pithy, playful and poignant messages that have had a role in everything from pop culture moments like the Academy Awards to political upheavals like the Arab Spring.

Over the past decade, the free service has become a go-to platform for politicians, entertainers, activists and everyday people and one of the top sources for breaking news. If there's a catastrophe, folks flock to Twitter to find out the latest. Many of its 320 million tweeters use the service to swap opinions about sporting events as they happen, or to monitor protests, wars or terrorist attacks as they unfold in real time.

Watch this: Happy 10th birthday, Twitter! Will you make it to 20?

Donald Trump, the unexpected Republican front-runner for US president, relies on Twitter to trash his rivals and share his often-unapologetic commentaries. First Lady Michelle Obama helped popularize the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to call attention to the plight of kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. Whistle-blower Edward Snowden joined Twitter in September 2015 with the ironic phrase "Can you hear me now?"

NBA superstar Kobe Bryant used the service in November 2015 to announce his retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers. And former Olympic athlete turned reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner announced herself to the world on Twitter, reaching 1 million followers in less than four hours. That broke President Barack Obama's record for fastest to rack up a million followers.

Singers Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift have the most Twitter followers at nearly 85 million, 77 million and 73 million, respectively. Obama ranks fourth with 71 million, according to TwitterCounter.

Twitter's founders Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass said their goal was to create a "public messaging" service, akin to the way cab drivers and dispatchers communicate. They called it "a simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly."

The proof is in the tweets. Here's a list of some of the most important ones from the past decade.

On March 21, 2006, Twitter co-founder and current CEO Jack Dorsey sent out his first tweet: "just setting up my twttr."

The birth of the first #hashtag, by Chris Messina in 2007:

NASA said there's ice in space, after the Phoenix Mars lander discovered patches of ice on Mars in 2008:

In 2009, Twitter brought images to the world almost immediately after a US Airways plane with 155 passengers on board struck a bird on takeoff and miraculously landed in the Hudson River near New York City. Twitter user Janis Krums was among the first witnesses on the scene and tweeted a photo that came to symbolize the "Miracle on the Hudson." Dorsey thanked Krums via Twitter, naturally, calling it an "iconic moment."

Following a controversial election in Iran in June 2009, thousands began protesting in the streets of Tehran. When the government shut off news about the demonstrations, protesters took to Twitter. The phrase "Twitter Revolution" was born.

Astronaut Timothy (TJ) Creamer sent the first live tweet from space, in January 2010: "Hello Twitterverse!" He went on to take questions from there.

The microblogging service played a vital part in the Arab Spring uprisings across Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Libya in late 2010 and 2011. Demonstrators used the social network as a mobilization tool to coordinate and organize protests. Twitter and other platforms were credited with the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the resignation of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, Pakistan, inadvertently sent live tweets of the US Navy Seals raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, after noticing helicopters hovering in his neighborhood.

Obama celebrated his re-election in November 2012 with a tweet that read "Four more years" and included a photo of him embracing the First Lady. It became the most retweeted tweet ever -- until 2014 that is, when it was eclipsed by Ellen DeGeneres' Oscars selfie with A-list celebrities.

The Boston Globe was among the first to break the news about the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013. More than 27 million tweets were sent discussing the tragedy that killed three people and injured more than 200 others.

The 2014 World Cup captured the attention and enthusiasm of fans around the globe, who turned it into the most mentioned sporting event in Twitter history. There were more than 672 million tweets during the tournament.

Millions took to Twitter with the hashtag #PrayforParis to show solidarity and peace after terror attacks killed at least 130 people in the city in November 2015. It was the city's second major terror attack. Eleven people were killed and 11 injured at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier that year. That attack spawned the #JeSuisCharlie -- I am Charlie -- hashtag.

Last month, Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar win for Best Actor caused a spike of 440,000 tweets a minute. That broke DeGeneres' Oscar selfie record.