Twitter’s International Growth: Becoming the World’s Water Cooler?



Not to be outdone by Facebook‘s impressive global growth trend, Twitter’s just revealed some statistics about how many people Tweet around the third rock from the sun. Get this: More than 60% of Tweeps aren’t American.

Matt Sanford, Twitter’s head honcho engineer on its International Team, presents the stats (mainly in the form of that graph shown above) on the company’s blog. He notes that the first Tweeps were employees in the company’s San Francisco offices in 2006–naturally–but that since then Twitter’s grown very rapidly into a “global information network.” By its very nature, Twitter spreads like a virus, without regard for national boundaries. It’s a person-to-person network, and as more people become connected to the grid, there are more people to “follow” or connect with.

But peeping at that graph up there, the growth in international membership of Twitter has been nothing short of phenomenal. Back in June of 2009 (three years into Twitter’s existence) less than 45% of people using the service were non-U.S. citizens–reflecting, probably, the close regional and linguistic ties that early Twitterers shared with each other. By September 2009, Twitter had reached the tipping point, and 50% of users were in the U.S., 50% elsewhere. That ridiculously fast expansion has continued until now, with international growth outstripping membership additions inside the U.S. until about 62% of users are in the rest of the world, this month.

Specific events around the world sparked peaks in international growth, Sanford notes–with the February 2010 Chilean earthquake prompting a 1,200% spike in member sign-ups. A 300% spike was seen after Colombian politicians began to use the system, and speedier growth was seen in India after local politicos and Bollywood stars began to Tweet.

Although Twitter is regionalized into six languages, and small sign-up spikes have been observed when, for example, Spanish was added back in November 2009, its international growth has been pretty smooth. Since Twitter itself doesn’t mandate what languages Tweets are sent in, and the system is terrifically easy to grasp, it’s actually highly accessible for pretty much everyone. English is becoming the de-facto shared language around the world largely thanks to the Net–and since everyone can speak to anyone through Twitter, it’s also Twitter’s lingua franca: A quick glance at Tweets near to me here in Portugal reveals that about 50% of Tweets are in English, and 50% in Portuguese.

And since Twitter is still much better at tapping the pulse of its user’s conversations (despite Facebook’s desperate, privacy-stomping efforts at stealing this title) it looks like while Facebook will be the “phone book” of the world, Twitter’s pretty much the global watercooler. Having said that, how could we not close this piece without reminding you of Jer Thorp’s visualization of how the World Tweets “good morning!”


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