Founded in 2006, Twitter is an online social networking site allowing its users to share short messages with each other.
What separates Twitter from the social networking pack is the enforced brevity of its messages. Known as Tweets, each post can be no longer than 140 characters.
Tweets link to photos, videos, or online articles. Users also can re-post – or re-Tweet – messages from others users, in the process disseminating a single user's message to a growing audience.
Twitter users create a handle for themselves, which starts with the @ sign. For example, Business News Daily's Twitter handle is @BNDarticles.
Each Twitter user has the option to "follow" others, from family and friends to celebrities, news organizations and athletes they've never personally met. When logging into the site, the user's homepage is filled with a running feed of tweets from those they follow.
Often the tweets will include a # symbol, called a hash tag, which is used to designate keywords or topics Users can then click on any hash tag to see other tweets on the same topic.
While Tweets are public for all a user's followers to see, the site also offers direct messages, which are private posts sent between two people who are mutually following each other.
Twitter is increasingly becoming more popular among businesses, which are using the social networking site to communicate with customers, hold contests and announce news about the company. Users are also posting reviews of products and services, giving businesses a quick snapshot at what its customers are thinking.
Twitter is accessible online, at twitter.com, as well as through a number of mobile apps.
Today, Twitter reports 340 million Tweets a day from its more than 140 million users worldwide.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.