A Billion Served

As the East coasters rolled over from Monday to Tuesday, Twitter unofficially registered their 1 billionth tweet. Not bad for a company just two years from launch.

UPDATE 10/19/2009: Less than one year after writing this post, Twitter has zoomed past 5 billion. Granted, in addition to the nuances described for the 1B mark, Twitter has also artificially advanced the tweet ID count to deal with Twitpocalypse I and II. It will be a little while before Twitter actually reaches #5,000,000,000.

GigaTweet counts down to the billionth tweet
GigaTweet counts down to the billionth tweet

Australia’s Nathan Reed—who created popacular, a tool to that tracks popular links included in tweets over the past month—started a countdown clock over a month ago, projecting when tweet number 1 billion would show up. Presumably, it had been calibrated to account for the U.S. election surge in activity on Twitter, as it was within a few hundred of the actual status record IDs in the public timeline with an hour to go.

The honors go to someone with a private account, one the API won’t let me see. The first public tweet in 10 digits belongs to a bot (CrystalLake) that posted, “CL News: PR Newswire Summary of Technology Copy, Nov. 10, 2008 – StreetInsider.com (subscript.. http://snipr.com/5barm” at November 11, 2008 at 12:49a. The bot’s included link doesn’t lead anywhere. Sadly, the last public tweet with a 9-digit ID is also an automatic feed.

Very anticlimactic.

UPDATE 11/12: Blair Blends of Charlotte, North Carolina tricked the API into revealing the identity of the private account. Evidence from the API XML response is here.

The first public tweet with a 10-digit ID
It figures. Tweet 1,000,000,001 is a bot with bad link.

All of this is speculative, of course. Twitter keeps their official stats tight to the vest, and they have varied the ID count enough to be certain what will be celebrated as tweet 1 billion actually isn’t.

According to creator Jack Dorsey in late February 2007, the former CEO of Twitter claimed the first tweet at 4:02p on March 21, 2006 (“inviting coworkers”). That tweet was status update record ID 29, an indication that some tests were done on the database during development. Number one million is credited to rentzsch on February 28, 2007 at 10:07p. That record ID was 5764000. While Reed’s assumptions are reasonable, it is equally likely the real billionth tweet is still 3 or more days away.

Still, why quibble with success. Whether or not November 11, 2008 goes down in the history books as the day Twitter reached 10 digits in the tweet count, breaking that barrier is inevitable. Congratulations to Twitter on a fun ride, and to Nathan Reed for reminding us how far the community has come.

Who’s starting the clock to 1 trillion?

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