Happy birthday, Twitter! Ten years since first tweet was sent

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It’s 10 years since Jack Dorsey sent the first tweet: “just setting up my twttr”.

Since then, the freedom to say what you want - as long as it’s in 140 characters or less - has led to a worldwide phenomenon, with 320 million tweeters worldwide swapping opinions on everything from celebrities to sporting events to terror attacks. Five hundred million tweets are now sent every day - that’s 200 billion posted every year.

There was always a danger of the global social network descending into a slew of showbiz. Indeed, Olympic athlete turned Kardashians reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner announced her arrival on Twitter, and gained one million followers in under four hours.

The previous holder of that record was President Barack Obama, who also held the retweet record following his re-election in November 2012 for “Four more years”.

That was overtaken in 2014 that is, when Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscars selfie with A-list celebrities was retweeted over three million times. But, just last month, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar win for Best Actor caused a spike of 440,000 tweets a minute.

Happily, the microblogging site does have its practical uses too. Michelle Obama helped bring to attention the plight of kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria via the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.

And Twitter can harness the power of the internet to get news out faster than regular news channels. Following the controversial election in Iran in June 2009, the government shut down news coverage of demonstrations in Tehran. Protesters took to the web and the phrase “Twitter Revolution” was born - very appropriately given its part in the Arab Spring uprisings across Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Libya in 2010 and 2011 which led to the downfall of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

But there’s a fine line separating social media and politics. Former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls may be best remembered for accidentally tweeted his own name, but during the 2015 UK general election, 18-year-old Abby Tomlinson, from Merseyside, helped to create the hashtag #Milifandom - which may prove to be the most lasting memory of former Labour leader Ed.

The engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton was also first confirmed on Twitter in 2010, in a royal first.

As you might imagine, sport is a massive draw. The 2014 World Cup captured the attention and enthusiasm of fans around the globe, who turned it into the most mentioned sporting event in Twitter history. There were more than 672 million tweets during the tournament.

But it’s showbiz that draws in the followers. Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift are the most-followed Tweeters, with 85 million, 77 million and 73 million followers, respectively. Obama is fourth with a mere 71 million.

The final word should go to Jack Dorsey along with fellow Twitter founders Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. They set out to create “a simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly.” Mission accomplished.