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5 Twitter Features You’d Never Guess Weren’t Invented by Twitter

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How much of Twitter’s billion dollars of revenue this year will be paid to Eric Rice of Portland, Oregon? Because he may be able to take credit for inventing the Retweet.

Mr. Rice has no official connection to Twitter Inc, but he and many other ordinary Twitter users like him are responsible for some of the most distinctive, fun, and profitable attributes of the Twitter product.

The Ecosystem: Twitter’s 11 Secret Herbs and Spices

Many essential Twitter features were actually created by the ecosystem: users and developers who launched apps, built features, and started major trends that Twitter ultimately adopted into the official product experience. 

Among the many contributions of the social ecosystem are 5 essential Twitter features you’d never guess were invented by people who didn’t work for Twitter:


  • Invented by users by April 2007
  • First supported by Twitter August 2009

Fact: what some marketers might consider the holy grail of Twitter wasn’t invented there, and it took the Twitter team two years to support it. 

The idea of repeating a tweet probably started with correcting mistakes, since tweets aren’t editable. For example, the oldtweet archive indicates @derekpunsalan was first to use the word “re-tweet”:

But others wanted to “Re-Tweet” too, to share great tweets with their own followers. The words “Re-tweet” and “Retweet” were soon shortened to “RT” instead, and retweeters gave credit by including the username of the person who first tweeted it.

Who exactly invented the Retweet? History is unclear. Tim Haines of Favstar, an ecosystem app tracking Twitter favorites, unearthed evidence of early use of “ReTweet” in April 2007. Based on Haines’s research, Eric Rice (@ericrice) of Portland, OR appears to be the first person to use “Retweet” to pass a tweet to his followers:

Ecosystem clients like twhirl and tweetmeme started supporting retweets in early 2008. Twitter didn’t start including a Retweet button on the site until two and a half years later, August 2009. Even though all tweets now have a Retweet button, you’ll still see people typing “RT” or using other forms to quote tweets. 

2. Replies

  • Invented by users November 2006
  • Supported by Twitter May 2007

Replies are another great invention originating not with Twitter but in the ecosystem. Not only did people want to broadcast what they had for breakfast, they also wanted to comment on it. The @ reply format — the @ symbol followed by the username — drew from conventions already in use elsewhere on the internet (IRC, for example). Garrett Murray puts forth this tweet from Robert Andersen, designer at Square, as the first @ reply:

The reply was created by users in 2006 and officially acknowledged by Twitter, six months later, in 2007.

3. Hashtags

  • Invented by users August 2007
  • Supported by Twitter July 2008

While some active tweeters might consider Trending Topics indispensable, there was no concept of trends on early Twitter.

First came topic tracking. The early Twitter product team understood the value of following concepts as well as people, so they launched an experimental feature called Track to allow users and developers to track keywords. 

But what most people hadn’t yet learned about Twitter users is that they’re interested in keywords only until they’re not interested. Favorite topics come and go. During events like SXSW and when news broke, people wanted ways to follow specific topics network-wide. Borrowing from Flickr and IRC, users began tagging their posts with hashtags: a topic or keyword prepended by the hash (#) sign. Chris Messina is widely credited with proposing the hashtag:

One of the first apps to analyze hashtags was, which launched in October 2007 and would track the hashtags of all users following @Hashtags. Apps like Twitag and iTweet also helped users watch tweets on specific topics. 

What Twitter needed to support the hashtag was its own search engine. In July 2008ten months after the hashtag was invented, Twitter was able to support hashtags with search by acquiring ecosystem company Summize. The Summize team took over major engineering duties thereafter. After that, hashtags were officially supported, allowing people to click hashtags to see what others were tweeting on the topic. 

With the Summize team’s help, hashtags and other popular phrases were later featured as Trending Topics, which brands can now buy for up to $100,000 a day.

4. iPhone App

  • Invented by the ecosystem November 2008 
  • Acquired by Twitter April 2010

What most Twitter users know as Twitter’s iPhone app actually began in the ecosystem. In its early history, Twitter’s product team focused on web experience, with Twitter’s only mobile play being the mobile-optimized In the meantime, developer Loren Brichter created an ecosystem app called Tweetie that let people read Twitter feeds in a customized app for the iPhone. It was first released in November 2008.


Tweetie was one of many ecosystem apps available for iPhone. Fans blogged heavily about which app was best, with great apps like Birdfeed, Twitterific, and Tweetfire winning lots of users too. An exceptionally popular app, Tweetie was regarded by developers (and industry watchers like Daring Fireball) as one of the best-designed Twitter apps of its time (pull-to-refresh being the shot heard round the iOS world).

The amazing proliferation of ecosystem apps helped win and keep new Twitter users. And as more people signed up, Twitter, Inc. acknowledged the contributions of the ecosystem but decided it needed an official presence in app stores. In a validation of the developer ecosystem, Twitter acquired Tweetie in April 2010, a year and a half after Tweetie was first launched. And thus the popular Twitter for iPhone app was created — not out of thin air, but out of the ecosystem.

5. Social Ads

  • Available in the ecosystem October 2009
  • Available on Twitter December 2010

If you’ve read this far, you can probably guess where this story is going. Yes, as with other core features like Retweets and @ replies, the monetization layer for Twitter services — Targeted Social Ads — were invented and launched not by Twitter HQ, but by the ecosystem. 140 Proof first launched targeted social ads, based on the interest graph, in 2009. Unlike celebrity endorsement platforms like Adly, 140 Proof sells advertising media, to help brands reach beyond their followers — which is essential for achieving the scale that big brands need.

Even though Twitter has won much publicity over their Promoted Products, Twitter didn’t begin privately testing their beta advertising product until April 2010. 140 Proof had already officially launched both self-serve and full-serve access for brand advertisers in  January 2010almost a year before Twitter finally began to unlock access to their ad product in December

Twitter ads are still playing catch-up with the ecosystem, as only last month did Twitter enable brands to target based on geography.


In 2012, 140 Proof celebrates 3 years of helping great customers launch social campaigns.

The Social Ecosystem Is a Force for Innovation

So much of what we regard as being truly Twitter originated among devoted users and developers. Follow recommendations, embedded photos, and even automatic streaming were all invented somewhere else before they made it to This abundance of innovation was made possible by two things: Twitter’s commitment to an open API  and the passionate devotion of ecosystem developers and Twitter users. And Twitter’s product team leadership should be commended, too, for recognizing the value of ecosystem contributions and integrating them into the Twitter product.

At 140 Proof, we consider ourselves not only a participant in the ecosystem but also a patron of it. Developers of apps like Echofon, iTweet, UberSocial, and more are all ecosystem innovators that we’re proud to support as their monetization platform. Promoting innovation is one of our core values, and we’re firmly convinced that the ecosystem is poised to deliver even more for Twitter users in the future.

Background on 140 Proof

While 140 Proof began as a Twitter-centric API company, we’ve since blended Facebook into our offering too: targeting on mobile, relevance data for app companies, etc. (However, we kept the “140” in our name- we’re nostalgic). Back then, before we had launched our Facebook offering and our mobile Proof Platform, we were very involved in the Twitter ecosystem world and followed its development closely. Here is the secret story of the ecosystem behind Twitter.

To learn more about how 140 Proof supports innovation in the social ecosystem, visit our developer site or contact us at

This article was inspired by Garrett Murray’s article “The Real History of the @ Reply on Twitter.” Thanks, Garrett!

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August 29, 2012 - 2 years ago

Posted In TwitterTechnologyTrends

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How Big Will Social Advertising Be in 2013?


Since 2003, social advertising has grown and lately flourished, with 2012 its biggest year yet. The United States ad market overall grew by 4% in 2012, partly due to campaigns for political candidates and Olympics sponsors. And social giant Facebook recently reported a 32% increase in revenue for the third quarter of 2012. But how will social advertising shake out next year?

Experts predict that social advertising market growth will continue to climb to between $6 billion and $10 billion. In May 2012, BIA/Kelsey predicted that social ad spending in the US will top $5.9 billion for 2013, with social display taking the biggest portion. And last year, the marketing analysts at eMarketer predicted that the paid social market, including social ads, social network games, and social network applications, will earn $9.99 billion dollars in 2013.

Other signs point to a successful social ads industry for 2013, too. 

Nielsen reports that almost 172 million people in the US accessed social networks in 2012, with 20% of online time being spent on social networks (more than any other online activity).  Women spend the most time in social, up to 18 hours per month. And 30% of mobile time is now being spent on social media networks. 

Because 140 Proof offers social advertising across many social platforms and uses public social data to target ads, we’re bullish on continued growth for 2013. With over half of the US population using social networks, social advertising is increasingly the best way to reach relevant audiences at scale. And brand advertisers increasingly prefer the Blended Interest Graph to reach these audiences, because social data is public and always up-to-date.

In January, we’ll be profiling the biggest social advertising trends of 2013. Stay tuned for more insights as the social ad industry grows and evolves.

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December 4, 2012 - 1 year ago

Posted In TrendsFacebookTwitterAdvertising

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Co-Founder John Manoogian III for WSJ on Twitter Ads Management API

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[Twitter] said in a blog post that it will allow advertisers to use an application programming interface, or API, which makes it simpler for marketers to automate purchases of ads on Twitter.

Until now, marketers for the most part have to manually set ad details, such as the amount of money allocated for Twitter ads and the type of users the marketers wanted to reach. The manual method clashes with how the world’s biggest marketing agencies and companies typically buy digital ads in huge volumes.

Facebook made its own [API] broadly available less than a year before its 2012 IPO, and research firm eMarketer Inc. estimates roughly 60% of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from ads bought through its API. The move also amps up pressure on Twitter to prove its ads are effective. 

An API also carries some risk. Right now Twitter works directly with most of the big companies that buy ads on the company’s service, and it is ceding some control in allowing marketers to buy ads on their own or through marketing intermediaries.

If Twitter ads don’t perform as well as others, it will be more clear to advertisers and they can move their ad dollars accordingly.

Company officials described the API announced Wednesday as a first step, and Twitter’s ad offering for now is more limited than those on other digital services. For example, Facebook’s advertising system allows marketers to use data gleaned from other websites to target ads on Facebook.

"This new ads management API release is really just a small incremental step forward," said John Manoogian III, co-founder of social advertising firm 140 Proof. “Blended interest graph data from many social sites and services is what drives real relevancy in social ads, and we’re a little disappointed to see that Twitter isn’t yet adopting those approaches that customers have been asking for.”

The San Francisco company said in a blog post that it will allow advertisers to use what is called an application programming interface, or API, which makes it simpler for marketers to automate purchases of ads on Twitter.

Until now, marketers for the most part have to manually set ad details, such as the amount of money allocated for Twitter ads and the type of users the marketers wanted to reach. The manual method clashes with how the world’s biggest marketing agencies and companies typically buy digital ads in huge volumes.

"We think it will give you a fuller set of options to manage advertising on Twitter," April Underwood, a Twitter product manager for revenue, wrote in the blog post. Twitter said it has been testing the API since January.

An API, already in place at bigger companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc., has the potential to significantly boost Twitter’s advertising revenue, but it also amps up pressure on Twitter to prove its ads are effective.

Twitter also has to tread carefully to avoid annoying its users with ads, and to maintain the company’s nascent relationships with advertisers.

Read the full story on

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February 25, 2013 - 1 year ago

Posted In twitterinterest graph

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Marissa Mayer: the Interest Graph Will Replace the Social Graph for Personalization on the Web

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In conversation with Erik Schatzker of Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum, Marissa Mayer identified interest graph technology as the next trend in personalization:

There’s the social graph, which is really important and very fundamental, but — what I’m talking about in terms of personalization — it will give way to the interest graph. 

Other technology leaders like Facebook VC Sean Parker, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann, and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo have extolled the the interest graph before. Mayer’s recent commentary underlines the importance of the interest graph currently has for all major technology companies.

Mayer went on to say (emphasis ours):

The interest graph is the set of things that I’m interested in. And if you know the set of things that I’m interested in, you know the set of things other people are interested in, you can create connections between people that aren’t just based on whether or not they went to the same school or worked in the same place, but are actually based on “are they interested in the same things?”

So, for one, we can create very powerful personalization technologies [with the interest graph] because we can see what other people who like the same things, are interested in the same things that you are, are doing and provide you the same information through things like collaborative filtering. But there’s also a very powerful social component there, because we can show you interests you may have in common with people you didn’t realize.

Watch Mayer’s entire comments on the interest graph:

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July 29, 2013 - 1 year ago

Posted In interest graphPinterestfacebookTwitter

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[VIDEO] Jon Elvekrog: IPO Will Be a “Blowout Event” for Twitter


Speculation is beginning about when and how Twitter will IPO, with CNBC, USA Today, and Forbes jumping into the fray.

140 Proof CEO Jon Elvekrog spoke to CNBC on the topic:

“I think the Twitter IPO’s going to be huge. Throw out everything you think out the window. It is going to be a blowout event for Twitter. There’s obviously a huge precendent set with Facebook and their IPO that happened a year ago…but I think Twitter’s in a very different trajectory as a company.”

Facebook’s stock ($FB) recently returned to its 2012 IPO price. Elvekrog said the unique environment of social is an advantage for marketers:

“Twitter in particular has blurred the lines between marketing and customer support and advertising, so an interaction might start out at a support activity and might turn into an actual sale, because it merges all those different functions together.”

And he predicted:

“If there’s one thing that for both Facebook and Twitter I would look towards, [is] if there’s an advertising solution they can call their own, something that’s unique to either Twitter or Facebook — in the same way that Google had their paid keyword search solution — that might be one of the [most promising] indicators [of long term success], who gets there first.”

Watch the entire CNBC interview with Jon Elvekrog on YouTube

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August 13, 2013 - 1 year ago

Posted In trendsTwitter

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Publishers Are Feeling the Social Squeeze


Publishers who don’t have access to social data are facing a growing challenge—social squeeze. When it comes to digital advertising market share, they are losing out to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

AOL’s acquisition of Gravity in January shows that AOL knows it needs to make its ad offering more social. Likewise, Marissa Mayer’s recent statement that the interest graph is the future of understanding what consumers want shows that Yahoo is aware it has the same problem.

With Facebook recently laying claim to the second-largest share of digital advertising dollars in the country, this is actually every publisher’s challenge today. The cash flowing into social platforms is not new money being spent in digital for the first time—these dollars are coming from the pockets of existing publishers, and few are avoiding the social squeeze.

Publishers, then, must keep Facebook and Twitter from further encroaching on their home turf. The social companies have made their presence known far and wide—so how can publishers defend and grow their revenue when media buyers are increasingly buying into the power of social?

Just playing defense won’t cut it. Publishers have to change their game plan—the only way to compete with social is social. To do so, they’ll have to make three critical adjustments:

As Mayer so accurately noted, understanding an individual’s interests allows for more personalization, which is great for consumers, and better ad targeting, which is great for advertisers.

At the confluence of these two are the publishers, who need both eyeballs and ad dollars. AOL’s intention is to use Gravity’s data as a proxy for interests, which shows effort in the right direction, and Apple may be taking a similar step with its acquisition of Topsy.

Social data gains more value the closer to the source you get—that is, to individuals and to what they express about themselves on social platforms. It can be used to make recommendations to people on content sites driving an alignment of content and advertising to make the advertising more premium—or it can be used to ensure that ads appearing in many places will be relevant to the consumer. In this way, advertising can take on aspects of CRM.

Ads must move away from the much loathed and widely ignored banner. Similarly, the word “native” is becoming one of those overused industry words that has accrued so many meanings that it’s meaningless.

We learn from social that ads in line with the content and with the same appearance and tone of the platform around it are very effective. Some publishers have dealt with dropping rates by adding more ads to each page, but that is unsustainable. Others have placed ads in whatever they can call a “stream” or a “feed,” but because there is no social targeting, they wind up with belly fat ads that are undesired by most audiences and, even worse, undermine the quality of the publisher.

Fewer ads of greater quality and relevance will drive rates back up because they are truly valuable.

Lastly, the real opportunity for publishers lies in capturing brand dollars. Action-based data and lookalike models that third party Big Data providers sell haven’t convinced brand advertisers to do their image-building work in digital—and they never will. While they may be comfortable with content alignment, that’s often difficult to scale via the Web.

Brands willing to build awareness online and in mobile will require a deep understanding of the real interests of the people on the other end of the ad server. And, interestingly enough, Twitter and Facebook don’t seem to have gone up to the plate swinging for brand dollars.

Facebook Exchange, Twitter Custom Audiences: these are retargeting techniques, and, while they are effective for driving action, they continue to leave much potential brand spending on the sidelines and keep new dollars out of digital’s reach.

If publishers can accomplish the first two points—making their data more social and their ads more appealing—then they’ve got a chance to bring in brand advertising in a much bigger way. Google’s new Custom Brand Exchanges are a step in that direction, as they’ve been reverse-engineered to capitalize on demand from brands and match them with premium inventory. Targeting audiences through social data with ads that they are interested in will expand the pool of inventory, whether served through exchanges or sold directly by publishers.

Some publishers have taken strong first steps toward understanding the competitive advantages that they should bring to the table. The social squeeze is avoidable—if you learn from social.

By 140 Proof CEO Jon Elvekrog.

This article originally appeared in Fast Company on 20 March 2014.

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March 28, 2014 - 5 months ago

Posted In facebookTwittertrends

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