The beginning and the end of Twitter
thoughts from user 4,609

A screenshot of my early tweet, quoted below, in which i say I am 'starting to see the yay of this'
Starting to see the yay of this, he said

I signed up for Twitter very early, in August 2006. I was user number 4,609. In those days I was still earning a living from tech journalism - signing up for weird new things on the internet was part of the job.

At this stage, it was still mostly just an SMS service - hard to fathom, slow and fiddly to use, dependent on the whims and restrictions of whatever phone contract I was using at the time. There was no app. There were no retweets, no faves, no threads, no memes, almost nothing except followers and text messages. The web interface was there but the emphasis was all on SMS messages.

So it took a while to build up any kind of momentum. For a while, things were … quiet.

My first tweet said: “Going to bed.”

My second: “marmite on toast”. Standard.

Kicking off

I vividly remember the day something clicked, and Twitter seemed to come alive.

It was 20 November 2006. I had just dropped my son off at school, and I was walking back down the hill towards home.

And my pocket was buzzing.

Loads of messages were suddenly appearing from the tiny group of people that I followed at the time. My friends were right there with me on that hill, in my pocket. I giggled all the way to my front door.

I posted:

reading twitterings on my phone on the way down the hill, after the school run; starting to see the yay of this

Remember, this was 2006. I wasn’t giggling looking at the screen of a smartphone, because they hadn’t been invented yet. I was giggling looking at an ugly bronze-brown coloured Nokia 6310.

And it was great fun.

Soon afterwards, I wrote a short piece about Twitter in my syndicated internet column for the Press Association, using terrible phrases like:

A site called Twitter ( is the latest web craze.


Suddenly, you’ve got all your pals in your pocket.


To be honest, once you have a half dozen or more Twitter friends and you have mobile alerts switched on, your phone probably won’t stop buzzing all day. Posting thoughts to Twitter only costs money if you send an SMS; using the web or IM interface costs nothing, and there’s no limit to the number of twitterings you can send.

So I guess the word “tweet” hadn’t been coined at that point.


Settling in

Twitter grew and changed and became an app on the newly-invented smartphone that buzzed in my pocket instead of the Nokia. Over the years, it turned into a community that I became very fond of.

I kept in touch with old friends and made lots of new ones. I found stories, ideas and inspiration everywhere I looked.

I contributed back in return. I wrote Twitter by post.

As the site grew even more, it earned a reputation as a place of aggression and argument. I saw very little of that - partly because of the sorts of people I followed, and partly because I made frequent use of the “Block” and “Mute” buttons.

Trump came and went. The place seemed to survive. I was still enjoying it and benefiting from it. Twitter occupied a space in my daily life and I was happy with that.

Then the rich moron turned up, and bought the whole thing, and declared his intent to monetize the users. All of us.

Backing off

So like many others in my timeline, I’m using Mastodon now and it’s not the same, but it’s not shit either. It’s different. It takes a bit of adjustment. And I’m enjoying it.

If Twitter survives as a functioning website (not guaranteed, given how many staff have been laid off or quit), I think it will survive as a community.

But it will be the rich moron’s idea of a community: entitled, aggressive, all-or-nothing, money-first. He says there will be fewer ads but I don’t believe that; there will be way more ads, way more features you have to pay for. I think it will end up much more like Facebook, where paid content and algorithms decide what users see.

That doesn’t sound much like the thing I found in my pocket on a November morning in 2006, and it doesn’t sound much like the thing on the internet that that thing became. I’m not seeing the yay of this anymore.

So I’ll be over in the Mastodon community, posting my photos and making comments about Marmite. Standard.

Filed under: computers
(18 November 2022)