The one thing you can say for certain about Twitter is that it makes a terrible first impression. You hear about this new service that lets you send 140-character updates to your "followers," and you think, Why does the world need this, exactly? I, too, was skeptical at first. And yet as millions of devotees have discovered, Twitter turns out to have unsuspected depth. Hearing about what your friends had for breakfast is actually more interesting than it sounds. The technology writer Clive Thompson calls this "ambient awareness." The social warmth of all those stray details shouldn't be taken lightly.
But I think there is something even more profound in what has happened to Twitter over the past two years. The key development with Twitter is how we've jury-rigged the system to do things that its creators never dreamed of. In short, the most fascinating thing about Twitter is not what it's doing to us. It's what we're doing to it.
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