Monday, March 21st, 2016 | 8 min read
It’s been ten years since Twitter’s co-founder (and now CEO) Jack Dorsey posted the first tweet.
Since then, Twitter has grown from a scrappy social network to one of the world’s most popular channels for sharing information. It has transformed news reporting, content consumption, advertising, and even customer care. It has helped launch social movements and has become a playground for personalities ranging from Kanye to President Obama to Ellen DeGeneres.
Looking back at the tweets that made waves over the past 10 years is a reminder of just how much social media’s mainstream adoption has changed our world.
A deadly earthquake rocked Haiti, and Twitter was used to spread awareness and organize aid from across the globe. Gay marriage was legalized nationally, and people took to Twitter to express their excitement. The Arab Spring became a turning point for citizen journalism, with Twitter at the forefront.
In honor of Twitter’s 10th year, we’ve rounded up 10 iconic moments that took place on the social network, one for each year. Happy Birthday, Twitter!
Do you think Jack Dorsey had a hunch that this simple, five-word message would eventually become one of the defining moments in social media history?
just setting up my twttr
— Jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
Hashtags have become integrated into our everyday language—not just in tweets, but in text messages, on other social networks, in conversation, and in pop culture (h/t to Jimmy and Justin).
In August of 2007, the hashtag made its debut on Twitter when it was proposed by Chris Messina. The rest is history.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina ✌︎ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
NASA has been a trailblazer on social media from the very beginning. In June 2008, when the Mars Phoenix Lander found evidence of water on Mars, the organization broke the news through the spacecraft’s Twitter account.
This was the first time that news of this scale had been released through social media (rather than through a press release or press conference), and it put Twitter on the map as a viable channel through which major organizations communicate with the public.
Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!
— MarsPhoenix (@MarsPhoenix) June 20, 2008
In January of 2009, a US Airways plane landed in the Hudson River after striking a flock of geese. As the plane was being evacuated, Janis Krums, a passenger on a nearby ferry, posted the first photo of the scene. The tweet went up a full 15 minutes before the mainstream media got ahold of the story, proving that ordinary social media users could be a real-time source for major news.
http://twitpic.com/135xa – There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.
— Janis Krums (@jkrums) January 15, 2009
When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, journalists and citizens used Twitter messages and photos to spread news of what was happening to the rest of the world.
Earthquake 7 Richter in Haiti, just happening. #Haiti
— Future Haiti (@FutureHaiti) January 12, 2010
It’s 8:44PM and we’re still getting aftershocks!!I can hear people gathered in the distance singing prayers
— RAMhaiti (@RAMhaiti) January 13, 2010
In the heat of Arab Spring, traditional news source omitted the voice of the people and reported only from the point of view of those in power. So, the masses turned to Twitter to tell the world what was actually happening.
Global news organizations had people on the ground tweeting about the protests in real time, and Twitter was used to organize a social uprising.
The Egyptian government turned off Twitter and internet networks to stifle the demonstrators, showing just how effective social media can be in connecting people during at key history-making moments.
We can confirm that Twitter was blocked in Egypt around 8am PT today. It is impacting both Twitter.com & applications. (1/2)
— Twitter Comms (@twittercomms) January 26, 2011
When Barack Obama was reelected in 2012, he posted a picture of him and his wife embracing with the caption “Four more years.” This image would become the most-retweeted message in Twitter’s history (until it was trumped by Ellen Degeneres’ Oscar Selfie in 2014).
Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
When the power went out during Super Bowl XLVII, Oreo posted a tweet that would revolutionize the way brands approach real-time marketing: the now-famous “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark” message.
The brand’s digital agency, huddled in a social media command center, crafted the tweet within minutes, showing that it is possible for large brands to act quickly on social. The tweet was retweeted 10,000 times in just one hour.
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences probably made more than a few people shed a tear when they posted this tribute to Robin Williams the day he died.
Genie, you’re free. pic.twitter.com/WjA9QuuldD
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 12, 2014
Seeing that tweet brought back childhood memories shaped by the comic genius of Robin Williams, but it also did something even more powerful than that: Bring together the community of people mourning the loss of Williams and provided an outlet for the world to express their sadness.
The deaths of Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland propelled what started as the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter into a full-blown social movement. As people voiced their concern and frustration through text, video, and photos, Twitter helped bring today’s civil rights struggles to the forefront of news and politics.
Once again, social media proved to be an effective tool for community organizing, self expression, and social change.
— Shekhar Bhatia (@shekharbhatia) October 22, 2015
In just ten years, Twitter has sparked social movements, shaped pop culture, transformed mass media, changed the way customers interact with brands, and given rise to self-made social media stars. Now let’s see what the next ten years have in store!