By now, most of us have heard and have partaken of social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook. These websites allow users to create profiles, share photos, upload links, and find old friends. That's quite a lot of fun packed into a single program. But there's one social networking service that is starting to edge out the competition due to adhering to the old principle: K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid). This service goes by the avian sounding name: Twitter.
Twitter is different in that you can send and receive messages to and from a large number of people at once. Instead of sending a bunch of private messages with text or email, you send out one message to your Twitter account and everyone on your list receives the message. You can use Twitter to set up spontaneous meetings, have a group conversation, or send out an au courant update to all your friends. Sometimes you'll find yourself looking in on a partial conversation. You can see the posts of your own contacts, but not the responses of your contact's friends who aren't in your own network.
Some people like to think of Twitter as micro-blogging, because Twitter is meant for the posting of very short messages. So, you can update everyone as you would on a blog, but there are space constraints, hence the name Twitter, which implies short bursts of communication on the order of birds chirping.
Messages sent out on Twitter are called Tweets. In order to send and receive Tweets you have to sign up for a free Twitter account. You will also need to have friends and contacts that have also created Twitter accounts. That means that once you have your account, you'll need to begin to build a network of contacts. You can decide who can receive your Tweets and you can follow the Tweets of other members.
Twitter relies in large measure on cell phone text messaging or the SMS. This method of operation imposes space limitations on Twitter's design. A Tweet may contain a maximum of 140 characters. Anything longer gets cut off and your contact won't see the rest. However, members of Twitter can see longer Tweets on Twitter's web interface.
You can only send text with Twitter, but you can send links to other media, for instance photos and video clips, through a Tweet message. Twitter automatically converts web addresses longer than 30 characters into tiny URLs, or compressed links.
Twitter has a sensitive option for removing yourself from a friend's network. If you find that a friend sends out too many Tweets, you can stop following his feeds. To do this, you send a message to Twitter with the word, "off," accompanied by the name of the offending user. If you change your mind and want back in on the conversation, just send a second message that says, "follow," accompanied by the user's name. As long as you haven't been removed from his network, you'll receive his messages again and no one will be the wiser.