By Hannah Ingram
Used by over 200 million people worldwide as a way of connecting with each other, even the likes of Tiger Woods, Bill Gates and Cher were among the 100 million others who joined this year.
But since Twitter’s humble beginnings in March 2006, when it was intended by its creators to be an intranet service for a number of employees to keep in contact, the primary function of it remains uncertain.
It has certainly come a long way since Twitter fanatic Stephen Fry tweeted about being stuck in a lift at the Centre Point building in London in February 2009.
He was the third most popular ‘Twitterer’ at the time and could well have been the impetus behind the mass sign-up operation in the UK.
That event was the reason I joined, through nothing more than intrigue, thinking: “Is this a way to become involved in the day to day lives of celebrities?”
Co-founder Evan Williams summed up the ‘micro-blogging’ site well in an interview with The Telegraph in November this year.
He said: “A lot of people don’t understand that in order to get the most out of Twitter, you don’t have to tweet.”
He couldn’t be more right.
I have updated my profile a handful of times since I joined, instead seeing Twitter more as the ‘paparazzi for the people’ – an exclusive falls into your lap straight from the source within seconds, due to the vast amounts of celebrity members who tweet what they like.
Its status as an indispensable source of news saw Google, Yahoo! And Microsoft pay huge amounts to integrate a live Twitter feed into their search results.
So many news stories start with a Twitter revelation; whether it’s a picture of Cheryl Cole baking scones or Lord Sugar unveiling his new private jet.
Twitter also had the first photographs of the plane that successfully crash-landed on the Hudson River and broke the news of the upcoming royal nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
So where else would I visit on December 12, when the News of the World ran a sensational Sunday splash of an ‘affair’ between the well-spoken English rose who wore that safety pinned dress and the peroxide-blonde Aussie spin bowler that us Pommes love to hate.
The ‘evidence’ was there – Elizabeth Hurley having a quick smooch in a public place with Australian cricketer slash womaniser, Shane Warne, was snapped up by the paparazzi and spread across the front page.
Instead of waiting for the papers to harass their agents and get a reaction, journalists and ordinary nosey neighbour-types alike just logged into Twitter and found out for themselves.
Suspicion was rife, as Hurley is still married to Indian textile tycoon Arun Nayar and Warne was living with ex-wife Simone Callahan and their three children, possibly close to reconciliation.
Twitter seemed the ideal platform for both to speak for themselves, giving the British public the reaction they were looking for.
Both have no apparent privacy settings, so reaction is freely available, as is their flirting in the months before the lid was lifted.
Hurley acted on the same day:
“Not a great day. For the record, my husband Arun & I separated a few months ago. Our close family & friends were aware of this.”
4:38 PM Dec 12th
While Warne left it a little longer:
“Hey guys been a long day … I have posted a short factually correct paragraph to clarify situation on my website http//:www.shanewarne.com”
6:58 AM Dec 13th
“Sadly and unfortunately, Simone and I split up a while ago, our close friends and family were informed at that time. It is a private matter so we did not make it public. We remain friends and will continue to be good parents.”
Journalists can’t resist delving into celebrity lives and snooping around conversations they didn’t keep private, such as the Hurley/Warne flirting:
“@warne888 Oooooh, I love scary rides-remember to scream if u want to go faster!”
1:08 PM Dec 11th
“@ElizabethHurley I screamed so loud when ride took off I’m surprised you din not hear me back in the uk !!! Really need to man up hahahaha”
1:10 PM Dec 11th
Relationships on Twitter are risky at the best of times, just ask Jason Manford.
The 29-year-old quit his job as presenter of BBC’s The One Show six months after taking the reins from Adrian Chiles following allegations that he exchanged explicit Twitter messages with female fans.
The comedian wasn’t laughing when he made his grovelling apology:
“I can see now that what started out as a bit of messing about and having a laugh on Twitter has been misjudged and I’d like to apologise to anyone that this has offended as that was the last thing I ever intended to do.”
Maybe the one person he should be apologising to is his wife, who was pregnant with their third child at the time.
This just shows how a well-built up reputation can be smashed to pieces by 140 characters.
Manford had become a jewel in the television crown, selling out large arenas on his comedy tour and featuring on panel shows such as Eight Out Of Ten Cats but a fog of uncertainty now surrounds him.
The Twitter faithful can be very unforgiving – they could even club together and make your worst nightmare a ‘trend’ for the day.
Lord Sugar recently found himself the subject of such a incident, when a man was found ‘enjoying’ his autobiography, What You See Is What You Get, a little bit too much in a Crawley library.
He took it in his stride though, using Twitter to banter with his celebrity friend Piers Morgan:
“@piersmorgan according to reports in the the Sun its sounded like you were in a Library reading my book doing something else to yourself”
“@Iord_sugar In your dreams”
“@piersmorgan at least someone likes me, I heard that somone use a pile of your books to stand on to hang themselves”
I had originally decided to spend December 12 on Twitter, arguably the world’s biggest SMS service, to monitor the reaction from the X Factor final.
The show had plenty of Twitter coverage leading up to the final, including when contestant Aiden Grimshaw announced live on air that a Twitter leak informed him he would be in the bottom three with the possibility of leaving the show.
Presenter Dermot O’Leary acted quickly, by insisting that such reports were unfounded and ‘uncorroborated’.
Well played ITV, but you could well be underestimating the power of the Twitter engine – a leak spreads like wildfire.
It only takes a trending idea to gather pace by users typing a # in front of the comment, such as #getaidensigned which entered the top ten trends with help from his fellow X Factor contestants, including winner, Matt Cardle:
“#getaidensigned is trending at no.1 well done bro xx @Mr_Grimshaw”
It is certain that the purpose of Twitter is what you make of it – whether you publish personal information or simply snoop around remains a judgement call.
Co-founder Williams added: “We think of Twitter as a mini web within the web – which, when managed efficiently, can be one of the most useful ways to discover hugely relevant real time information.”
Whether you think the announcement of Holly Willoughby’s latest pregnancy is hugely relevant is up to you.