While in French class, Nicole Raffail hears her phone vibrating in her bag sitting on the floor beneath her desk, indicating she has received a new text message.
She counts the vibrations: one … two … three …
She shifts her focus to her teacher and attempts to comprehend the rules of passé composé.
Six … seven … eight …
The bell liberates her from her teacher’s eagle eye, and she checks her phone: nine new text messages. No, they’re not from her best friends or boyfriend but from another social networking Web site sending her rather useless status updates every five minutes about exactly what her friends are doing.
Twitter, founded by Evan Williams, was developed in 2006 as a "status" Web site. In a nutshell, it’s based off the status option created by Facebook and eventually offered to MySpace.
The site had more than 4 million unique visitors in February, bumping it from the 14th most popular social networking Web site to the third in a year, right behind behemoths MySpace and Facebook respectively.
"My friend basically peer pressured me to ‘tweet,’ so I did," says Raffail, 17, a frequent tweeter. "I like to talk about useless tidbits of information that usually no one would care to hear about, and Twitter is the perfect place for me to share just that."
"Tweeters" update by simply answering the questions "What are you doing" in 140 characters or less. (Exactly how much can someone manage to say using only 140 characters? Using this parenthetical statement as a measurement, this would be it.) Those "tweets" are then sent through cyberspace to their "followers" via SMS text, instant messaging or e-mail.
While some believe the site is just another way to invade privacy and be nosy, others have actual use for it.
"My stepmother uses Twitter as a business tool," says Kenneth Charette, 17, who has been using Twitter since December. "She ‘tweets’ to let her clients know when her next newsletter is sent out. She uses it to keep in touch and send quick information to big groups of people all at once."
Not all tweeters are your average Joe the Plumber either. Like MySpace and Facebook, Twitter has hundreds of celebrities.
"I’m following celebrities like Coldplay, Chuck Palahnuik and YouTube’s Mitchell Davis," says Raffail. "They update about tours, upcoming books or signings, or new videos. It’s just like getting updates from other sites or reading in a magazine, only much more timely."
Even President Obama’s campaign has a twitter. However, they haven’t updated since January.
"I feel that his team could do more useful and important things than come up with something to tweet about," says Charette. "Plus, the media already grilled Obama for his Blackberry; the nation would never let it go if he tweeted."R-Jeneration