The complete history of Twitter as told through tortured descriptions of it in the New York Times

Not quite.
Not quite.
Image: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid
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Twitter needs no introduction. But it wasn’t always so for the “blogging-like tool for quick updates” (2006), which grew into “another leading social network” (2013).

Below, I’ve culled some of the many thousands of times Twitter has appeared in the New York Times, from its first year in 2006 to the wall-to-wall coverage that accompanied its announcement of a planned IPO last month. Along the way, Times wordsmiths grappled with exactly how to explain an entirely new form of media to the American populace.

The descriptive clauses start out awkwardly and get more with-it as the years go on. (They also get less frequent as Twitter appeared more often without explanation.) The data were compiled from the New York Times archive on LexisNexis.

The photo above, from the roof of Twitter’s new headquarters, is by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid and used under a Creative Commons license.


“…a blogging-like tool for quick updates”

—November 24, 2006


“…a new, free communications service”

—April 22, 2007

“This short-messaging service allows you to ‘micro-blog’ your life in 140 character bursts.”

—November 29, 2007

“The micro-blogging service…”

—December 28, 2007


“…one of a number of so-called microblogging services”

—January 21, 2008

“…a group-messaging application”

—February 14, 2008

“…the instant messaging service”

—February 25, 2008

“…the Web site Twitter, where users write small blogs called microblogs”

—March 2, 2008

“…’lifecasting’ services like Twitter”

—May 4, 2008

“…a service that enables subscribers to electronically (and almost instantaneously) broadcast what they’re doing”

—May 1, 2008

“…the mass text-messaging service that sends out short ‘tweets'”

—November 15, 2008

“…a Web messaging and social networking site that is itself known for frequent downtime”

—July 6, 2008

“…another social networking site best described as a micro blog”

—July 8, 2008

“…a messenging service that lets people send updates of 140 characters about what they are doing or thinking to the mobile phones of people who sign up to receive the constant stream”

—August 2, 2008

“…the social-networking service that allows users to send out brief messages — “tweets” — to large groups of friends via cellphone”

—August 3, 2008

“…a Web site and messaging service that allows its two-million-plus users to broadcast to their friends haiku-length updates”

—September 7, 2008

“…a hyperspeed form of blogging in which you write about your life in bursts of 140 characters or fewer, including spaces and punctuation marks”

—September 21, 2008

“…which lets users send short messages with updates on what they are doing, is popular with a tech-savvy crowd but crashes frequently and has not figured out a way to earn significant revenue.”

—September 22, 2008

“…the short-message communication service”

—September 30, 2008

“…a start-up company in San Francisco that has become a household name, is the leading microblogging outfit”

—October 21, 2008

“…the leading microblogging outfit”

—October 21, 2008

“…a start-up that allows users to broadcast short messages”

—November 20, 2008

“…a short-message service that has evolved from an oddity to a full-fledged news platform in just two years”

—November 30, 2008

“The Twitter microblogging service…”

—December 8, 2008

“…the social messaging Web site”

—December 8, 2008

“…instant-blogging platform”

—December 8, 2008

“…microblogging platform”

—December 18, 2008

“…a social networking Web site”

—December 19, 2008

“..the online blogging service”

���December 19, 2008


“…the micro-blogging platform”

—February 3, 2009

“…the online social-networking service”

—February 15, 2009

“…a service that lets people mass-mail short entries or ‘tweets’ in real time from their phones or computers”

—February 23, 2009

“…the unfiltered and instant outlet for self-expression”

—February 28, 2009

“…the chatty Web service that is quickly entering the mainstream”

—March 16, 2009

“…the social messaging network”

—April 8, 2009

“…which allows users to broadcast messages of 140 characters or less, has been soaring in recent months.”

—April 18, 2009

“…the Internet service that lets you send out constant brief updates on whatever you might be doing at the moment”

—April 26, 2009

“…the microblogging service that from its inception has let third parties create the programs that let people see and post Twitter updates”

—May 3, 2009

“…the online social network that has lured both Hollywood celebrities and basement amateurs away from their blogs”

—May 7, 2009

“…the online network that lets users communicate and broadcast through microscopically short text messages”

—May 27, 2009

“…the social-networking site of the moment”

—June 14, 2009

“…the newest social-networking tool, has been identified with two mass protests in a matter of months”

—June 21, 2009

“…the buzziest Web app of the moment”

—June 22, 2009

“…which has become something of a real-time broadcasting service”

—July 2, 2009

“…a private company that so far has no revenue”

—July 16, 2009

“…the popular microblogging site, was out of service much of the day Thursday as it worked to defend itself against a Web attack”

—August 7, 2009

“…a small San Francisco company, has been struggling to improve its security even as it tries to manage hypergrowth in the number of users and messages it handles”

—August 8, 2009

“…which has no discernible revenue”

—September 25, 2009

“…permits public communication via short, to-the-point messages”

—November 28, 2009

“…a Web site where each member has a password-protected page. It has a blank box for typing in a message of 140 characters or fewer, an act known as tweeting.”

—November 28, 2009

“…which had two major security breaches this summer”

—December 19, 2009

“…which is blocked in China but can be accessed by those able to circumvent the so-called Great Firewall”

—December 25, 2009


“…which is getting more popular but is still the province of a tiny fraction of Internet users, smacks to some of elitism”

—January 6, 2010

“…the microblogging service”

—March 17, 2010

“…the blogging service, whose users currently send a daily flood of 55 million messages, all that contain 140 or fewer characters”

—April 15, 2010

“…the rapidly growing Internet messaging service”

—June 25, 2010

“…the popular microblogging service”

—August 11, 2010

“…which has 145 million registered users”

—August 30, 2010

“…which has raised $160 million in venture capital, has slowly started to run ads called Promoted Tweets that people see when they search the site”

—September 15, 2010

“…the company that early on never wanted to talk about money, now has a money-making strategy that it says is working well”

—October 4, 2010

“…one of the rare but fabled Web companies with a growth rate that resembles the shape of a hockey stick”

—October 31, 2010

“…which has attracted 175 million users in just a few years”

—November 12, 2010


“…the popular microblogging service”

—January 10, 2011

“…which has faced criticism from users over the placement of ads and from software developers over its changing rules for building applications”

—March 29, 2011

“…stable, cruising at an altitude of more than 200 million postings a day”

—December 8, 2011


“…now post more than a billion Twitter messages every three days, and the company is adding more than a million users each week”

—May 2, 2012

“…has grown in popularity and evolved into a real-time news feed and communication tool for many of its 140 million active users”

—July 24, 2012

“Bankrolled by venture capitalists, it has grown into a multibillion-dollar enterprise with 140 million users worldwide.”

—October 7, 2012


“…another leading social network”

—June 7, 2013

“With its 140-character limit, Twitter exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder…”

—July 16, 2013

“…positioning itself as a multinational company, with offices and data servers around the world and pressure to comply with government requests for user data”

—August 31, 2013

“…was profitable in December of last year and generated more than $100 million in revenue in the final quarter of 2012”

—September 12, 2013

“…which started out as a way to post short bursts of text, is slowly but surely evolving into a media-rich and never-ending stream of information and entertainment that includes short videos, photographs and advertisements”

—September 13, 2013