Fast Company

Happy 5th Birthday, Twitter! Love Google, Facebook, AOL

making a bird with hands

Aw, look at the cute baby! Coloring in the lines! Riding that trike with ease! Looping those shoelaces into bunny ears! You're all grown up now, Twitter!

Today, Twitter turns just 5 years old, but its accomplishments far outweigh that of any adolescent's. And while Ev Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone are blowing out birthday candles on a cake made of black truffles and 140 ounces of gold, like any relative, we thought it the perfect time to highlight just how much the social network has achieved.

After all, just look at what the San Francisco-based company has to celebrate. Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has grown to over 450 employees and 200 million users, and sees more 1.4 billion tweets per week. It's changed how the world communicates online. It's impacted revolutions in the Middle East. It's leading town hall discussions with the White House. And it has an estimated valuation of $7 billion.

But Twitter certainly isn't the first company to reach the ripe age of 5, which is technically the equivalent of old age in startup years. Here's a look at how some other tech giants were maturing and dealing with puberty at the same stages of growth.

AOL
Launched in 1991, at its fifth birthday, the company was celebrating becoming the world's largest dial-up network, with 170,000 modems connected in 700 cities. By December of 1996, the company boasted 12 million AOL email users, 130 million web hits, and nearly 3,500 staffers. Life was moving fast for AOL (after all, modem speeds had increased from 28.8 Kbps to 56k), and the company established unlimited-use pricing plans--as opposed to having consumers pay on an hourly basis. In 2011, under the direction of Tim Armstrong and Arianna Huffington, AOL looks dramatically different--yet still ironically sees the majority of its revenue from its dial-up business. I guess we really don't change much from our formative years.

Google
Founded in 1998 by two geeks from Stanford, Google would soon surpass any search competitor and enter our lexicon--"google" is word in the dictionary by the company's fifth birthday. In 2003, it boasted more than 200 million searches a day, an index of 3.1 billion webpages, and more than 1,000 employees. Today? Google receives roughly 3 billion queries per day, has 26,000 staffers, and a web index that nears 20 billion pages.

MySpace
By MySpace's fifth birthday in 2009, a lot had changed for the social network. Competeting startup Facebook had entered the web wars, and had just passed MySpace in terms of usership. Still, MySpace had 130 million active monthly users, 1,600 employees, and annual revenue estimated at $750 million. However, as the years went by, the struggling network would continue to decline, and take to the bottle for comfort, kicking back big swigs of cheap tequila on its eighth birthday, as its uncle and owner Rupert Murdoch tore the place apart limb by limb.

Facebook
As you could guess, Facebook's fifth was a lot more enjoyable than MySpace's. The year before, its CEO was listed as the youngest billioniare in the world, with the help of the company's 150 million active users and more than 15 million status updates. On its birthday, the company gave its users a virtual gift--a thank-you card of sorts--a sign of just how powerful the network would become in the area of virtual goods, which companies like Zynga are making billions of dollars from.

Firefox
Unveiled as a competitor to Internet Explorer, Firefox had become the little-web-browser-that-could on its fifth. With 330 million daily users, a billion downloads, a 22.5% market share, and more than 7,000 add-ons, Mozilla was growing strong and nimble as Microsoft was growing old and frail.

YouTube
By 2010, users were accounting for over 2 billion views a day, and uploading 24 hours of footage each minute--it was the third most visited website in the world. But five years earlier, the site's founders barely imagined the service's potential, viewing it more as a way to share travel videos than a global hub of dogs riding on skateboards (or, 10 hours of dogs riding on skateboards). Who could've imagined it would one day be worth billions of dollars and catch the loving eye of Google?

Pandora
The music discovery service launched in 2005, quite ahead of its time considering we were still pirating MP3s and becoming accustomed to the iTunes store. The streaming company flourished over the years, however, and by its fifth birthday boasted 48 million users and a burgeoning advertising platform. (Side note: When the Music Genome Project, the DNA behind Pandora, turned 5, the company finally was taken out of beta.)

Additional reporting by Lauren Smyth.

[Image: Flickr user Pink Poppy]

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