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Last updated at 17:25 GMT, Monday, 21 March 2011

Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday


18 March 2011

The social networking site, Twitter is five years old today. It has grown from having a few thousand users to more than 175 million members around the world. The BBC's technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones spoke about the impact of Twitter on BBC Radio 5 live.

Mobile phone screen showing icons for Twitter and other apps and websites

Twitter has proved to be a useful tool for journalists


Click to hear the report:


Rory Cellan-Jones: Well, I'm just looking at another tweet right now from a journalist, saying: "Twitter's five today - the most important innovation for journalists in that time. Not much good for insomnia though," and I think that's about right. The first thing I do every morning is have a look at it, because it's become an extraordinary means of communicating news. I find that the first I see of news is it breaking on Twitter.

Rachel Burden: Rory, can you just literally explain how it works for those people who don't know, who don't use it?

Rory Cellan-Jones: It's a system for putting out messages that are no more than 140 characters long, so, the length of a text message, really. And you put your message out there, and gradually you hope that more and more people follow you. It's a system slightly like Facebook, where you've got friends, but much more public. And on Twitter you have followers, and you follow people. So, I'm following you, Rachel. I hope you're following me. I'm following about 1,000 people. I think we've all learnt over the years, those are the people who use Twitter, to, you know, walk this little line between the personal and the professional.

And I certainly find it useful professionally - a, to see news, and b, to get news. If you put a message out there and say: "Who knows about X?" - you'll find the world's experts on Twitter, and they will come to you.

Nicky Campbell: Completely, and also to share links with people as well?

Rory Cellan-Jones: That's right. I think that's become more and more important. You see an interesting article, and you put it out there, and everyone can see it. And it’s a quick way of reading the news in the morning.


Click to hear the vocabulary:



new or original idea or invention


medical condition which causes people to have difficulty sleeping

about right

close to the truth


way or method

breaking on Twitter

being told or revealed for the first time on Twitter, before any other news source

putting out

here, publishing

out there

here, online or on the internet

walk this little line

achieve a balance or strike a balance


hyperlinks, website addresses


here, piece of writing which has been published on a website or other online platform

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