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Twitter: Harmless Fad, or Web Revolution?

In three short years, Twitter has become one of the Web's most heavily trafficked sites. But is the micro-blog simply a fad, or a technological game-changer? Jeffrey Brown explores.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight, another way to reach and to connect. Jeffrey Brown has our story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It's the latest thing, but what is Twitter? Useful or waste of time? And what can you say in 140 characters, anyway? Let's find out.

  • DEBRA FISCHMAN:

    I am grateful for it that my eyes have been opened.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Debra Fischman is talking about Twitter, the three-year-old technology that is either a harmless fad or a revolution in communications, or perhaps a bit of both. We met Debra at a recent all-day conference designed to help Twitterers, as they're called, examine its many uses.

  • DEBRA FISCHMAN:

    I think that it gives you — instead of going to, say, just a coffee shop to meet up with people — it broadens your audience, because it is a global phenomenon.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In fact, Fischman, recently laid off from her job in the conservation field in Washington, does go to her local coffee shop. But what she calls her "community building" is done through her mobile phone and laptop, as she sends and responds to Tweets that she hopes will connect her with, among other things, a new job.

    Twitter is a form of micro-blogging, sending you and your thoughts out into the world. It's a free service in which a user sends out short messages of no more than 140 characters to anyone who's signed up to receive them. These are dubbed "followers," who could number a handful or thousands.

    The starting point, according to Twitter itself, is a simple question: What are you doing?

    Users can share links or photos with followers and use keywords to link their posts with popular topics. The hype and the number of users have grown dramatically.

    According to the Nielsen Company, Twitter.com has grown from 1.2 million unique visitors in May 2008 to 18.2 million this year, more than 1,400 percent, making it the fastest-growing Web brand.

    Software developer Bob Fine, who put on this conference, is himself a recent convert.

  • BOB FINE, Cool Blue Company, LLC:

    I was the last holdout to get a BlackBerry. Now I'm bumping into people, and I've become one of those people, you know, I did not want to become. And, unfortunately, but I think that's the day we live in and the age. And, unfortunately, if you don't kind of stay on top of this technology, you can fall behind.