15 July 2006: Twitter launched to the public

Twitter went public with its 140-character ‘social messaging’ service on this day in 2006. It now boasts over a billion users.


If you're a Twitter user, you may or may not have noticed that today is its birthday. Tenyears old today. Perhaps fitting, when you consider some of the output on the platform.

Twitter began life as a simple group messaging service called twttr, developed by Jack Dorsey at a podcasting company called Odeo. Odeo failed at podcasting, and was bought out by a group of its employees, who decided to concentrate on social networking. After making the first tweet in March of 2006, the service was opened to the public on this day on 15 July. It caught on remarkably quickly.

Now, Twitter boasts over one billion users; it is home to countless journalists, celebrities, and corporations, as well as regular people. It is also home to a whole foetid underbelly of stalkers, troglodytes and hateful individuals.

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The top users those with the most followers are Katy Perry, with 90.4 million; Justin Bieber with 84.5 million; Taylor Swift with 79.4 million, andand Barack Obama with a mere 76 million.The average user has a more down-to-earth 208 followers. Half of them have never sent a single tweet.

But while it may be a very cool little communications platform, Twitter is still having a hard time making money.

The company floated on the NYSE (rather than the more obvious Nasdaq) on 6 November 2013. 70 million shares were offered at $26 each. When they went on sale on the open market, they immediately soared to $45.10. They are now trading at $18 (giving the company a market capitalisation of $12.8bn). So if you'd bought Twitter on day one, you'd have lost 60% of your money.

Its first results as a public company, in the fourth quarter of 2013, showed a net loss of $511m. In the first quarter of 2016, it reported a loss of $179.3m on revenue of $595m. that compares with a loss of $162m on revenue of $435m in the same period last year.

Investors are eagerly awaiting the next quarter's earnings, which are due on 26 July.

This article was updated on 15 July 2016

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Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.