Canadian boss hails user innovation on Twitter's 10th birthday
Published Monday, March 21, 2016 6:00AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 21, 2016 8:48AM EDT
As Twitter turns 10, the company's Canadian chief says users deserve much of the credit for the social media platform's evolution over the last decade.
Twitter started as a bare-bones microblogging site in 2006, and since then, the company has been growing through ideas devised by its own audience. The social media platform now incorporates photos, videos, GIFs, geo-tagging and a number of other functionalities that all sprang from the ways people were using the social media site for their own purposes.
In many ways, its unrecognizable from what it looked like in its early days. However, it's always stayed faithful to its 140-character limit, and its scrolling timeline model for presenting information.
"Most of the major innovations that we've seen on Twitter have actually come from users first," Rory Capern, managing director of Twitter Canada, told CTVNews.ca.
Capern described Twitter as a "live connection to culture," adding that his company is always on the lookout for new features to connect people in other ways.
"Everything that we focus on will have this idea of a live connection in mind," he said.
Twitter maintains a strong presence in the social media sphere, though it seems to have hit a bit of a wall with its stock value and user numbers. The company's stock has stagnated, and its user base showed virtually no growth in the fourth quarter, according to numbers released in February. Twitter's co-founder and recently-returned CEO, Jack Dorsey, has been searching for ways to further innovate, but he's had to tread carefully to avoid alienating the service's existing user base.
On Saturday, for instance, Dorsey publicly denied rumours that Twitter might lift its 140-character limit on tweets. And earlier this year, he shot down suggestions that Twitter would be doing away with its traditional timeline, and replacing it with an algorithm-driven feed instead.
The company has rolled out that algorithmic timeline since then, and while it hasn't replaced the traditional timeline, it has become the default for all accounts. Users have to opt out of the algorithmic timeline in the "Settings" page to completely disable it.
Capern says Twitter's future will likely be partly shaped by its innovative users, who are finding all kinds of creative ways to communicate.
On Monday, Twitter Canada shared a list of 10 Canadian users doing creative things with the platform, to shine a spotlight on some of that creativity.
Among those innovators is the Twitter account for the Robotic Observatory at Saint Mary's University, in Halifax. The observatory will take a photo of any portion of the night sky, for anyone who tweets it the coordinates.
"If I want to see the Andromeda galaxy, I tweet that to this observatory and it provides me a picture of that part of space," Capern said.
The top-10 list includes many other intriguing uses of the platform, including a farmer who shares in-depth tweets about life on the farm, a Ryerson University project that incorporates tweets into an art installation, and an RCMP officer in Nova Scotia who live-tweets 911 calls.
Capern says it's nearly impossible to predict where Twitter will be in the next 10 years, but he expects feedback from existing users will help chart that path.
"We'll be watching very carefully," he said.
Twitter in Canada
Despite Twitter's difficulties with growing its audience lately, Capern says the company is doing well in Canada.
"We've actually seen healthy growth (in users) in Canada, over a long period of time," Capern said.
He added that the company has been pleased with its "only on Twitter" initiatives, such as hosting live Q&A sessions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, at the Twitter Canada headquarters. Capern says events like those are a way to draw in new users who "want to be part of the conversation," while also offering a more "enriching" experience for existing users.
By the numbers
According to Twitter Canada, the largest demographic of Canadians using Twitter is between the ages of 16-24 (28 per cent), followed by users between 35-34 (24 per cent). The gender divide is also nearly even, with 51 per cent males and 49 per cent females.
Canadian singer Justin Bieber is the most-mentioned Twitter user in the world, while Katy Perry has the most followers in the world, at 84 million. The most popular retweet of all-time remains Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar group selfie, and the busiest moment ever for Twitter was during the 2014 World Cup final, when Twitter registered more than 618,000 tweets per minute.