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What is Twitter?
by Dan Hanson

First of all, Twitter is a website. In fact it's one of the 10 most visited web sites in the world. It is also a social networking service (like Facebook) that allows people to post their thoughts and read the thoughts of others.

One of the main features of Twitter is that all messages must be within 140 characters. That includes punctuation and spaces. The 140 character limit derives from a limit that some phones would allow for messages. The short messages are why it is sometimes also called a micro-blogging service.

Each of the messages is called a Tweet.

Twitter came online in 2006 and now has well over 300 million users who have typed in more than 300 million tweets.

On a social network like Facebook, you have to be mutual "friends" with someone in order to read their posts. That is not the case with Twitter. So you can read the tweets of others without their permission. Or without having a Twitter account.

You can also "follow" other users so that you will see all of their messages. Many sports figures and other celebrities try to get as many followers as possible in order to display their popularity. You will see the messages of all the people that you follow in reverse chronological order - the most current on top.

Note that the messages may look strange. In the attempt to meet the 140 character limit, spelling and grammar shortcuts are often taken. It can take a while to get the hang of reading some tweets.

Also, be careful. Twitter is not monitored for profanity and some posts have very bad language and/or adult content.

Currently the people with the most Twitter followers are pop stars.

#1 is Lady Gaga at http://twitter.com/ladygaga

#2 is Justin Bieber at http://twitter.com/justinbieber

And so on.

In order to post messages (tweet) you have to set up a (free) Twitter account. Then you can post as many messages (under 140 characters) as you like. Without people to read your messages (followers) there is no point so you will want to alert your friends and others to your Twitter address.

Again be careful. Anything you post could be seen by anyone on the Internet. So don't post personal or sensitive information.

There are many more features to Twitter. Just ask if you have more questions.

Here are some sample Twitter accounts you may want to take a look at. Just click on the link and start reading. You don't have to sign up for anything.

But remember it may be difficult to grasp the meaning of many of the short messages. They use shorthand and other devices to make the 140 character limit. You will eventually get used to it.

Cleveland Browns at http://twitter.com/#!/OfficialBrowns

Cleveland Indians at http://twitter.com/#!/Indians

Cleveland Cavaliers at http://twitter.com/#!/cavs

Fox News at http://twitter.com/foxnews

CNN at http://twitter.com/cnn

Cleveland Seniors at http://twitter.com/clevelandboomer

Cleveland Women at http://twitter.com/clevelandwomen

Cleveland People at http://twitter.com/clevelandpeople

Cleveland Pets at http://twitter.com/clevelandpets

Dan Hanson at http://twitter.com/danhanson

Great Lakes Geek technology news at http://twitter.com/greatlakesgeek

E-mail us your questions.

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