Twitter’s retweet functionality is the backbone of the entire network. Thanks to the ripple effect, a retweet allows any user’s message to (theoretically) be seen by everybody.
In late 2009, Twitter controversially launched their own version of the retweet, but this was unpopular with many existing users who have continued to use the organic way of retweeting – that is, RT @, via, and so on.
But even before these methods and shorthands became established, it was more common to write out ‘retweet’ in full. So the question is: who did it first?
Over on Quora Tim Haines, the founder of Twitter-favourite tracker Favstar.fm, crunched the 200m+ tweets stored on the Favstar database and thinks the pioneer might have been Eric Rice (@spin), who first used the term ‘retweet’ back on April 18, 2007.
Which, if accurate, would mean this tweet by Jesse Malthus (@jmalthus) would have the distinction of being the first tweet ever retweeted.
And what about the first use of RT? Tim thinks he might have cracked that, too.
I searched the Favstar database, and of the 200m or so tweets in it, the earliest tweets starting with ‘RT @<username>’ is this one:
It’s from @tdavid retweeting @BreakingNewsOn about a fire in LV on January 25th 2008. @BreakingNews happened to fav it which is why I have it stored.
Tim proposes that there could be earlier uses of both RT and retweet on Twitter that weren’t stored on the Favstar database. But because Twitter only makes the last 3,200 tweets available for every user via its API service, Favstar’s data is probably the best we have.
So, a challenge for you guys: can you find evidence of the use of any kind of retweet prior to April 18, 2007? Hit the comments to let me know.