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Monday, October 6, 2008


AlwaysOn Global 250 Overall Winner: Twitter
Investors include:  Union Square Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Bezos Expeditions, Spark Capital, Digital Garage

AO Take:  Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that lets users send 140-character, text-based posts called "tweets."  The updates are displayed on the users' profile pages and instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them.
Senders can restrict delivery to a circle of friends and receive their updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, e-mail, or through a third-party application such as Twitterific or Facebook.
The service began as an inside project at San Francisco start-up company Obvious in 2006.  It quickly gained popularity, and Obvious spun Twitter into a separate company led by Jack Dorsey.  The Twitter service is largely free, though users may have to pay text-messaging
charges to their phone carriers.
Twitter is at the forefront of creating a working mobile social networking model.  The concept is a cross between an online social network such as Facebook and a TypePad blog, albeit with a lot more brevity.  This new type of micro-blogging platform has myriad applications that are only just being discovered, developed, and disseminated.
Countless stories have surfaced where people are using Twitter to stay connected in critical situations, such as the recent California wildfire crisis.  Most notably, a klatch of Twitter users were instrumental in securing the timely release of UC Berkeley graduate journalism student James Buck, who was arrested in Egypt for photographing a local anti-government protest.
As with any disruptive technology service, questions about Twitter's overall sustainability are the subject of much discussion and may remain unanswered in the near term.  Aside from high profile prison releases, the service must prove that it has a viable, revenue-generating future and isn't just a cute, bubbly fad.  While the U.S. has long been resistant to the adoption of mobile technology, the IM generation is constantly, unremittingly tearing down the walls
surrounding complete mobile adoption in the U.S.
Investors certainly are banking on the service, having pumped more than $20 million into the company.  Its most recent round in 2008 garnered the company $15 million and a handful of new investors.  What makes Twitter a stand out is its simplicity, flexibility, and - above all - its potential.  With its rapidly expanding user base and strong financial backing, Twitter has not only returned conversation to its purest form, it's spawned an entirely new ecosystem of business.

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