In its 5-year history Twitter has accomplished a heck of a lot. Because the platform has been so readily adopted on computers and (especially) mobile handsets around the world, Twitter is so often right there at life’s important moments, which are then quickly documented with a tweet.
And at other times, tweets are used to provide follow-up information, commentary and even apologies. And with the network’s 250+ million users, that news gets shared (and re-shared) at an incredible pace.
Here, in chronological order, are 13 of Twitter’s all-time most epic tweets, and the stories behind them.
“Just setting up my twttr.” ~ Jack Dorsey, March 21, 2006
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s tweet is important for many reasons. Even though the platform wasn’t yet open to the public, Dorsey’s message was the first proper tweet to be sent through Twitter (it’s status ID of 20 is deceptive – the previous 19 tweets are all blanks), and came from a time when the service was still known as Twttr. Vowels were added a few months later.
“Arrested.” ~ James Buck, April 10, 2008
This one-word tweet sent by student James Buck on his cellphone was enough to get him out of an Egyptian jail. Buck, a graduate from UC Berkeley, was in Egypt in April 2008 reporting on an anti-government protest when he was arrested alongside his translator. Buck sent the tweet on his way to the station, which quickly reached his 48 followers, many of whom were friends and contacts in the States, which set off a chain of events that led to his college hiring a lawyer on his behalf. He was released the next day.
“Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!” ~ Mars Phoenix, June 20, 2008
On May 25, 2008, the Phoenix lander, a robotic spacecraft, descended on Mars. It’s mission: to find evidence of water, to determine Mars’ potential as an environment for life. And that’s exactly what it did. On June 19, 2008, NASA announced that the vaporization of material unearthed by the lander strongly implied that they were composed of water ice, which sublimated following exposure. The excitable tweet was sent out the next day.
“We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks.” ~ President Barack Obama, November 5, 2008
Barack Obama’s tweet came on the day that he won the 2008 United States presidential election, becoming the first African American to be elected President of the USA. Obama made great use of social media during his campaign and has continued to be an advocate of Twitter – he resumed tweeting personally back in June of this year.
“There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.” ~ Janis Krums, January 15, 2009
Janis Krums message and world-famous photograph was perhaps the one tweet that put Twitter on the map, as this at-the-scene documentation of the Hudson plane landing made the world aware of Twitter’s power and importance as a medium for sharing information about major events, right as they were happening. Perhaps more significantly, the news (and image) was coming from regular people – not the mainstream media.
“HI TWITTERS . THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, April 17, 2009
Oprah Winfrey’s arrival on Twitter was a highly-celebrated event – at the time she was one of the first truly major celebrities to sign up for a profile on the platform. Oprah has long-been eclipsed on Twitter by many other famous names in the entertainment business, but her approval – which was accompanied by an appearance from the Twitter co-founders on her show – opened the door for some equally big names to get onboard. And Twitter hasn’t looked back since.
“The Gov is colapsing and the system of control is fast breaking down – #Iranelection.” ~ @persiankiwi, June 22, 2009
Persiankiwi is an anonymous account on Twitter that played a key role in channeling information about the 2009 Iranian election protests, being referred to as “one of the most reliable and prolific Iranians on Twitter”. This tweet was widely-shared on Twitter, and Persiankiwi became a vital source of authentic, on-the-ground information inside Iran, and was frequently cited by the global mainstream media. Persiankiwi did not tweet between June 24, 2009, and February 14, 2011, leading some to believe that he or she was imprisoned or prevented in some other way from accessing their Twitter account during this time. The account has been silent since March of this year.
“Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! More soon, send your ?s.” ~ TJ Creamer, January 22, 2010
NASA Astronaut Timothy Creamer became the first man to send a live tweet from space with this message, sent via the International Space Station, making social media history in the process. The crew of the Space Station have internet connection via an internal LAN, and Creamer, alongside crew mates Jeff Williams and Soichi Noguchi, was using Twitter to keep the world updated about their mission.
“I’m sorry Taylor.” ~ Kanye West, September 4, 2010
Kanye West took to Twitter to apologize to Taylor Swift, following his bizarre interruption of her acceptance speech as winner of Best Female Video at the 2009 Video Music Awards, which took place a year earlier. Yep, it took him 12 months to put his hand up. He later called Swift to further apologize, which she accepted, but West, who was widely derided for his actions at the Awards, hasn’t really bounced back to the same level of popularity and success before that fateful night.
“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC” ~ Kenneth Cole, February 3, 2011 (deleted)
This ill-advised attempted to take advantage of a trending hashtag by fashion designer Kenneth Cole caused a huge uproar on Twitter, with many feeling it made light of the protests in Egypt that were taking place at the time. Cole, who wrote the message himself, eventually deleted the tweet and later apologized, but the message, which was retweeted heavily, lives on in infamy.
“Everest summit no 9! 1st tweet from the top of the world thanks to a weak 3G signal & the awesome Samsung Galaxy S2 handset! @samsunguk.” ~ Kenton Cool, May 6, 2011
Kenton Cool is one of Britain’s leading alpine climbers with nine successful Everest summits on his resume. His most-recent expedition was completed in May of this year, and thanks to a sponsor, Cool was able to send out a tweet announcing his arrival at the summit which, at some 29,035 feet up in the sky, came from the top of the world. While Cool’s achievement was somewhat overshadowed by the blatant capitalism, it’s a pretty epic record nonetheless.
“So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.” ~ Keith Urbahn, May 2, 2011
On May 2, 2011, Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan. The event made a huge impact on Twitter, and the news broke there arguably before anywhere else. Keith Urbahn, former chief of staff under Donald Rumsfeld, was the first major figure to tweet about Osama’s death.
“Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.” ~ Sohaib Athar, May 2, 2011
As the news of Bin Laden’s death broke, Twitter played a key role in the exchange of information, both from mainstream sources and those right on the scene. One important figure was Sohaib Athar who unwittingly provided a tweet-by-tweet coverage of the events leading to Osama’s death. Athar knew something was going on – the helicopters and planes flying outside his house confirmed that – but it wasn’t until he woke the next day that he understood why, and how he had, in his own words, ‘liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it’, beating Urbahn and everyone else to the punch by hours. Athar’s own story received mainstream coverage, and it once again underlined Twitter’s increasing importance as a vital cog in the wheel of news reportage.
In the months and years to come Twitter will be the source for many more major news stories yet to unfold, as well as being the medium by which that news will be shared. In time, new tweets will be added to this list. But for now, the 13 tweets above are arguably the most epic ever since on Twitter. And whatever happens next, they will always have a place in the network’s growing history.