Twitter: The Early Years (1786-2007)

  • 6/30/2009 08:02:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones
  • 1 Comments

Now, we’re not claiming this is mindblowing investigative journalism. Why, it’s churnalism at best (see how we try and impress you by making it clear that we’ve read Flat Earth News. Did it work? Oh). Here’s a look at what Twitter used to look like, because we’ve had the idea of looking at it through web.archive.org:

(Note: as the moderately perceptive amongst will notice, not all images were captured by Archive.org’s special science nets. It’s enough to give you a good idea of the overall design, though, and you can click to see the bigger versions.)

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June 1786: Not many people know this, but the original Twitter was a sheet of parchment kept outside the door of hostelries. On this parchment, passing merchants could leave messages on what they were up to, proving they were of 140 scrawls or less. Of course, soon afterwards the industrial revolution meant people were too busy being bricked up in chimneys by their bosses after turning up three minutes late to their Spinning Jenny, leaving little time to partake in such fripperies.

Not really, of course. That’s just us doing a funny joke. Well, an attempt at one. Here’s the proper look back.

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March 2001: Still a several years away from being a glint in the eye of Ian Twitter Jack Dorsey, the domain is under the control of moustache-twirling domain hogs. “Oh no! Will Dorset be able to seize control of the domain name, or will we all end up using a social network called something else?” you might be saying at this point, if you’re the sort of person who wonders if Queen Victoria will survive the werewolf attack when watching Doctor Who.

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February 2005: Worst. Logo. Ever. Still some way from being ready, this holding page doesn’t really give the impression of "Impending Global Phenomenon". In case you’re wondering, that email address link points at prm@9252.com, which is similarly unimpressive. Now, Twitter.com (the current company) weren't formed until 2006, so it’s quite possible whoever prm@9252.com is made an absolute fortune out of flogging the domain name. Top tip: email them and ask them for some money.

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October 2006: The first chirps of Twitter proper, presumably using messages from beta users. User “Promote” proclaims “Just added Twitter to my MySpace”. Now there’s a sentence future generations will point at and say “Mum, what’s a MySpace?” Not a joke. MySpace will go the way of Boo.com by the end of next year, you’ll see.

The original public timeline from this incarnation of the network is still online, too. It includes gems such as “awake far too early :(“, “Sleep!”,Just chilling” and “um well yeah i hate jon hes a jerk”. Plus ca change, eh? It’s worth noting that of the “last 200 tweets” (that's Tweets from the whole of then-Twitterdom) on this page, they stretch back around seven full hours. In modern day Twitter there are single users that approach that amount of Tweet output on some working days.

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November 2006: It’s looking a lot more familiar now, possibly only one set of working background images from being recognisable as Twitter.

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January 2007: There we go. Not sure if “Chris Applegate” is the former star of Married... With Children, or just some bloke called Chris.

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March 2007: The site reverts to including Tweets on the front page, but this time recent messages plucked at random, and made available to the global audience. So, now everyone gets to know that @Kasper is “about to take a dump”.

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See? There's classy!

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December 2007: Archive.org’s Wayback process stops getting on with the Twitter site formatting, causing the trail to go cold, and this update to peter out quite pathetically. So here’s a clip from Ren and Stimpy.

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