A letter from Twitter from 2007

I first signed up for Twitter for Danwei, then at Danwei.org, in 2007. My first tweet was:

following twitter.com/zuola

Zuola is a blogger, citizen journalist and Internet gadfly whom I knew from the Chinese blogger conferences that ran annually in the fall from 2005 to 2009, and he was one the people who convinced me to join Twitter, even though at the time I was appalled by the idea of a service that only let you exchange soundbite length sentences.

Back then, Twitter used to send emails to its users. All the emails I received seemed to have been personally written and sent by one of the Twitter founders, Biz Stone. I remember receiving these emails and thinking, to myself: Biz Stone? What the hell kind of name is that? What a dork! And he addressed the email to Twitter-ers? What a dork! What a dorky service. This will never go anywhere

With Twitter about to IPO and Biz Stone set to become a gazillionaire, it is now fitting to ask: Who is the dork eh?

Below is the earliest email from Twitter I could dredge up from my archives. Two things strike me:

Firstly, the decision to abandon the idea of ‘friends’ in favor of ‘followers’. This has become one of the reasons why Twitter is such a strong network: you can follow and interact with people who have the same interests as you without any need to pretend to be friends or use the vocabulary of friendship.

Secondly, it is apparent from this email that the verb to tweet had not yet become common. Biz Stone addresses the email to “Twitter-ers”, whereas today he might say “Tweeters” although actual emails from Twitter these days usually just greet you with your user name, rather than a salutation. In other words, I get emails that says: “Goldkorn, here is news from Twitter….” and none of them are signed by a person.

Anyhow, here is the old email from Biz Stone:

From: Biz Stone news@twitter.com
Date: Mon, Jul 30, 2007 at 12:32 PM
Subject: Twitter Has Big News

Hello Twitter-ers!

Lots of big news at Twitter Headquarters last week. We’ve recently announced the closing of our financing with Union Square Ventures, Charles River Ventures, and some angel investors including Marc Andreessen, Dick Costolo, Ron Conway, and Naval Ravikant. We’re honored to have investors that we look up to and are inspired by. We’re looking forward to adding even more momentum, hiring more engineers, and building a sustainable company. Come on by and visit us: http://twitter.com

Friends, Followers and Notifications

Folks have noted that there’s too much overlap and confusion between “friend” and “follow.” As Twitter has evolved, these two concepts have emerged in parallel and clouded things up. So, in the spirit of simplification, we are no longer going to define people as your “friends.” The functionality of adding people remains, but the interaction is focused on the term “follow” instead. We’ve also added a “notifications” toggle which allows you to turn on updates via SMS or IM on a person-by-person basis.

More about this change: http://tinyurl.com/2f9rcp

Entertain Yourself

The Wall Street Journal recently took note of Hollywood’s experimentation with Twitter. They cited some of our work with MTV, FOX, and CBS. Next week, the actor who plays Cappie on ABC Family’s new series, “Greek,” is going to be Twittering and encouraging viewers to do the same during Monday night’s episode.

Follow Greekshow: http://twitter.com/greekshow
WSJ: http://tinyurl.com/ytm65r

There’s also some folks who’ve been twittering from comic-con, the big comic book convention in San Diego, California. Check out Agent M from the folks behind the scenes at Marvel Entertainment and actor/writer Wil Wheaton on Twitter for a little peek into the comic book industry’s biggest shindig.

Agent M: http://twitter.com/agent_m
Wil Wheaton: http://twitter.com/wilw

Congratulations Ev and Sara!

Twitter co-founder and chairman Evan Williams was married over the weekend to the lovely Sara Morishige. My toast at the rehearsal dinner was mercifully short, in true Twitter fashion. The event was well Twittered, as you might imagine. It’s not as easy as you think to text and dance simultaneously. Congrats to Ev and Sara!

Happy Twittering,
Biz Stone and the Twitter Team

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Danwei.com South African media entrepreneur who has lived in China since 1995. China, Media, Internet, Great Wall and Great FireWall, Chinese food, African music.