Twitter (TWTR), which is set to start trading on the NYSE Thursday in the largest tech IPO since Facebook's (FB) disastrous debut, has transformed the way we consume information and communicate across every category of human interest. This includes everything from breaking news, politics and religion to entertainment, advertising and mass-protest organizing.
Here are some of the greatest tweets of all time, showcasing such breadth and infused with wit, irony, surprise and serendipity.
1. Breaking News: It's amazing to think that it has been almost five years since Janis Krums took a picture of a plane’s successful emergency landing on the Hudson River in New York City, an event that gave us a new hero in Captain Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger.
This was not only an extraordinary event; it also managed to capture an early glimpse of the power of Twitter to break news in real time and well before traditional news sources by enlisting anyone anywhere as a potential real-time citizen journalist.
http://twitpic.com/135xa - There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.— Jānis Krūms (@jkrums) January 15, 2009
2. Advertising: When power went out at the Superdome this year during Super Bowl XLVII, Oreo Cookie created a genius advertisement on the fly to go with the outage. They tweeted it out before the lights came back on in New Orleans.
The result was 16,000 retweets, 6,000 "favorites" and no end of Monday-morning media coverage. Not only was this well played and fast thinking but it was also great for Twitter, as it showcased the potential power of their stream as an advertising platform.
3. Entertainment: Oprah Winfrey’s first tweet in 2009, and the speed with which she gained over a million followers, served as a tipping point for celebrities and foreshadowed the ability they now possess to reach millions of fans directly in 140 character bursts.
HI TWITTERS . THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY .— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) April 17, 2009
Maybe the best thing about Oprah’s tweet, though, was Shaq’s response — a friendly troll, if you will, and funny.
4. Space: This exchange between William Shatner and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrates just how far Twitter can travel. Commander Hadfield is tweeting from space and Shatner asks him:
Commander Hadfield responds without missing a beat and alludes to Shatner’s own famous explorer, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk:
@WilliamShatner Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain. And we're detecting signs of life on the surface.— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) January 3, 2013
5. Networking: The one-to-many structure of Twitter enables serendipitous public interactions between people that, pre-Twitter, likely would have never crossed paths. This exchange between songwriter/rapper Drake and oil magnate T. Boone Pickens serves as the humbling and prototypical example.
The first billion is a helluva lot harder RT @Drake: The first million is the hardest.— T. Boone Pickens (@boonepickens) May 31, 2012
6. Revolution: The spring of 2011 provided a glimpse of the power of Twitter to enable the spreading of ideas that are essential in uprooting corrupt regimes. Wael Ghonim, a Google employee at the time, used Facebook and Twitter to help spur demonstrations in Egypt leading into the Arab Spring.
7. War Correspondence: Sohab Athar may not have realized it at the time, but he live-tweeted the Navy Seals' top-secret raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound that resulted in the Al Qaeda leader’s death.
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).— Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) May 1, 2011
8. The Stock Market: Legendary investor Carl Icahn only joined Twitter five months ago and he has only tweeted 47 times, though he has over 100,000 followers. In August of 2013 he casually mentioned that he was buying Apple Inc (AAPL) stock and the price proceeded to rally $20, adding around $18 billion in market cap. It’s moved another $30 higher since then. Yes, Twitter moves markets.
We currently have a large position in APPLE. We believe the company to be extremely undervalued. Spoke to Tim Cook today. More to come.— Carl Icahn (@Carl_C_Icahn) August 13, 2013
9. Religion: Pope Francis joined Twitter in March of this year and he has over 3 million followers across the globe. His first tweet had a profound effect on the larger Catholic community, as his holiness is now able to reach millions of Catholics worldwide in real time.
Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me. Pope Francis.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 17, 2013
10. New Media: No best-tweets list could be complete without Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, the first tweet ever. It reminds us all of the humble beginnings of some of the world’s great endeavors.
just setting up my twttr— Jack Dorsey (@jack) March 21, 2006