How many bytes in a Tweet?

We all know (well, most people on the internet) know that a Tweet has 140 characters, which you can (typically) store in 140 bytes. Plus overhead for username, datestamp, etc.

But how many bytes does a tweet actually take up in a week’s lifetime? Everywhere, on everything?

Let’s see: has my tweet on their servers. Probably on a handful of hard drives at various points in their internal infrastructure. And I bet they use a content delivery network, which means it’s replicated on another handful of hard drives around the world.

Each Twitter follower gets at least one copy in their client – so in my case that’s another 100 or so hard disks that have a copy somewhere. (Yes, it’s true, I only have ~100 followers. My twitter ego is sad.)

All of my feeds and my friend’s feeds store a copy of my tweet. That’s another whole handful of feed aggregator server systems that it’s stored on, to say nothing of the number of web/RSS/Atom clients that cache a copy of the page locally when someone reads the feed.

With Twitter’s popularity, tweets get widely searched. This week, for example, #MoonFruit is giving away MacBooks by randomly selecting tweets with their hashtag. That means plenty of people are searching for that hashtag, and all those people will get copies of my tweet as well.

And nowhere have we talked about how Google and other search engines store crawl and query results across their labs full of machines – that probably adds dozens of other instances of at least bits of each tweet.

So – what’s the peak number of aggregate storage bytes that one tweet uses over a week’s lifetime?

It’s interesting to think that all of that storage – something that just 20 years ago would have been quite expensive – is now used for something as mundane as telling your friends and random followers when you’re taking a coffee break. Moore’s Law certainly enables us to do some amazing things with information and communication – as well as lots and lots of inane things.

How to monetize Twitter

Besides courting IBM and then having Oracle buy you, of course!

  • Introduce paid accounts. Very small fee to get one, but most services are pennies pay-per-use, so encourage people to put more cash into their “twitter wallet”.
  • Editable tweets. Paid account holders can retroactively EDIT THEIR TWEETS TO CORRECT ERRORS. (Looking at @oprah here.) Although the internet and Google store everything forever, Twitter can control their own database & website (the primary source of twitter data), and could probably use their API limits as a whip to force most of the major third party clients to silently accept the edited tweets. To edit a tweet within 15 seconds of posting costs a penny; editing anytime after that costs perhaps a dollar. This is withdrawn from the twitter wallet the account holder already setup, of course.
  • Put ads on the website – on all non-paid account holder pages. This doesn’t interfere with functionality, and won’t upset the geeks, who are all using third party clients anyway. For paid accountholders, have the option to include ads on their homepage, and allow a small kickback of the ad revenue to cover part of the paid account fee.
  • Add metadata to tweets for paid account holders. The sky’s the limit here (well, their database is the limit). Rich text formatting and Graphical smilies (in clients that support them, of course, which most will)? RDF / Hashtag / semantic web / SEO name=value fields attached to your tweet, and accessible from the API? All good things that people would pay for.
  • Life vests. Each paid account holder with a certain number of tweets gets a free, Twitter-logo’d live vest for wearing as they jump the shark with Twitter.

Wanted: someone to do the cost analysis of email traffic vs. SMS traffic (showing how 10 cents for an SMS is something like a bazillion dollars per megabyte) and apply the lesson to twitter.

Oprah is Twitter’s shark

With the coming of mainstream celebrities doing shows while twittering live, and competitions for a million followers, I join in today with the bleeding edge geeks who cry: Twitter has jumped the shark with the mainstreaming of it’s millionth follower contest, and with Oprah’s widely publicised (BUT UNFORTUNATELY SHOUTED) first tweet live from her show. It is somehow disappointing that with all the fanfare, the handlers in the old media world still don’t understand the new web: check out the inanity of the few follow on tweets she made. C’mon, I could have produced a better set of follow-on tweets this afternoon in my spare time than they put up. Sheesh.

This is not to say that Twitter didn’t succeed in one thing: the servers stayed up even in the face of rampant follow/unfollow attempts for @aplusk.

Let me add one disclaimer to my shark proclamation: while the fresh new appeal may have worn off for many, twitter is still a useful tool, especially with the many third party clients and website integrations. It’s just moved beyond the social scene for geeks, and out into… well, entertainment, I guess.

Fresh From Twitter

@monkchips 77AgencyLondon’s recent tweet says it all: “How social media can resurrect your brand’s reputation”… or not.

@ndw Lesson to world: always sanitize inputs. You never know what someone else will think that punctuation means otherwise.

@ndw Funny, I think #twhirl displayed ’s incorrectly in it’s pop-up, but correctly in the main stream window

@jimjag Amen, brother! I keep thinking ASF should take more leadership in defining the conversation somehow. Oh, to find time…

@gdaniels liberate liberate liberate

RT @FoodWriterDiary: I’d love your opinion of Spanish food in US and @sgala post (in Spanish) were simultaneous

/me questions if small batches of stock options are really worth it given how annoying US taxes are to do.

RT @zzqa: Greasemonkey un-tinys URLs inline: First compelling reason I’ve seen to install it.

@alberttwong I’ll pay the first 29.95 for their convenience – before, had gotten rebate city paying for everything else. Oops. kthxbye!

Ah, forgot how evil TurboTax is. State downloads on Basic version are charged separately: $40 – waaaay more than I remember.

Holy Twittering, Batman!

What non- entertainment or high technology personage could amass over 7,000 followers in less than 15 hours on Twitter?

No, not him, or her, or any of them.

It’s the Dalai Lama on Twitter! Excuse me, I apologise – he is more properly referred to as His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Good luck to him!


With apologies in advance for pondering crass materialisim on a subject like this, but: how much do you think Twitter’s valuation increases when such a prominent and non-technology figure signs up to use Twitter on an active basis?