Ten Years on Twitter

Today is my 10th birthday on Twitter. A decade, eh? Time flies…

I actually had an account before my current @dugcampbell handle. But in the early days of Twitter, I mainly used it to gather information – something that hasn’t changed in the last decade. Indeed, I’ve actually gone back to take a look at the first tweet I ever posted – and it was a whole 13+months later that I actively started posting using this particular account.

I’ve never been one for sharing too much publicly online. So those early days of Twitter very much involved consuming, rather than creating. But over the years, the platform has become ubiquitous and remains my first port of call for information.

Twitter’s had a rocky history right from the very start. And it took until the end of 2018 for it to turn a profit for four consecutive quarters for the first time (‘Twitter is now consistently profitable’). But it’s still here.

That’s not to say it can rest on its laurels. Like any social media company, achieving sustainable revenue was only ever one small part of the challenge. The next is dealing with the question of free speech. Partly of course that’s down the fact that they’ve admitted censoring messages from certain accounts in the past. They admitted making mistakes when relying on algorithms that penalised certain politicians for the activities of their followers on the platform, for example.

But there’s a real storm brewing over accountability – more specifically whether Twitter will be held to be a platform or a publisher (in the traditional sense). I like Albert Wenger’s summation of the challenges that face any digital facilitator of public debate. Is it actively censoring or suppressing speech unlawfully? Or is it somehow failing in its duties – to prevent the direct harassment of individuals, to minimise hate speech, to guard against misinformation and manipulation? Or should it be held to standards that are far more subtle – such as ensuring that no individual is trapped in a filter bubble, nor is he or she getting fed comments that are offensive to their beliefs?

That a huge topic in itself. But for today, I think it’s all about Twitter itself. The one thing that I can say without any shadow of a doubt is that this is the platform on which I’ve spent a decade learning about all manner subjects that I’d never have even heard of before; meeting people around the world who share my interests, and sometimes even my views; and generally providing me with a curated feed of news that, with careful and regular account maintenance over the years, continues to bring me things that enrich my experience of modernity beyond any other that I’ve come across.

The web is changing. I believe strongly that we’ll be moving away from such centralised models in the very near future. So I don’t know if it’ll still be there in another 10 years’ time. But for the past decade? Well done, Twitter. You’ve played a blinder.