How Texting Gave Rise to Twitter and Other Fascinating News on the Web

September 13, 2013

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  1. Where It’s @

    In its earliest iterations, the idea behind Twitter was to mimic the status updates many of us set on our instant messaging clients. Twitter essentially extended those personal updates to cell phones via SMS. Obviously, the idea grew from there. But that early idea — focusing on mobile devices — is an absolutely essential part of Twitter’s strategy as the company announces plans to go public. One of Facebook‘s key challenges following its IPO was to prove that it could be a mobile company. By the time Twitter goes public, mobile will clearly be its home turf. And there’s something else about those early days that proved to be key to Twitter’s rise: The limits of an SMS message. Because people could only send messages that were 140 characters, the service was much more inviting and accessible.

    + The New Yorker’s Matt Buchanan on the Twitter of tomorrow.

    + Brad Stone: The Accidental Revolution Hurtles Toward Payday.

    + Last night, I Tweeted that Twitter would have a bigger marketcap than Facebook within 3 years. It’s a longshot. But The Street’s Eric Jackson decided to extend the idea and explain how it might happen.

    + “There were a few minutes of clapping, high fives and private calculations of net worth. Then we all went back to work.” Hunter Walk reflects on Google’s IPO and what going public could mean for Twitter.

  2. Groupon Bounces Back

    We’ve all watched Facebook slowly recover from its disastrous IPO. Now another company seems to be back on the rise after taking a public beating. From Wired: Groupon returns from the edge of oblivion. Meanwhile, Zynga will need a Grouponesque turnaround (and then some) to climb back from its current lows. From Ars Technica: How Zynga went from social gaming powerhouse to has-been.

  3. Weekend Reads

    “The debate over why McCandless perished, and the related question of whether he is worthy of admiration, has been smoldering, and occasionally flaring, for more than two decades now.” Jon Krakauer returns into the wild to take another looks at how Chris McCandless died.

    + For decades, we’ve been throwing billions at education without all that much change. Can tablet computers make the difference? An interesting look at technology, education, and personalized learning.

    + The money, the academic misconduct, the drugs, and the sex. According to a multipart Sports Illustrated report, these were some of the key elements that helped Oklahoma State grow into a college football power. And probably a lot of other schools too.

  4. Voyager Leaves Solar System

    “By today’s standards, the spacecraft’s technology is laughable: it carries an 8-track tape recorder and computers with one-240,000th the memory of a low-end iPhone. When it left Earth 36 years ago, it was designed as a four-year mission to Saturn, and everything after that was gravy.” And yet, NASA’s Voyager 1 keeps going and going. In fact, it exited the solar system and is currently moving away from Earth at about 38,000 mph.

    + The duration of Jonathan Trappe’s journey into the skies didn’t quite match that of Voyager 1. His planned trip across the Atlantic ended after just twelve hours. But that’s not all that bad when you consider he was — inspired by the movie Upbeing carried by a bunch of helium balloons.

  5. Dinner with Al-Qaeda

    “I knocked over my tea. The explosion outside the house in northern Syria startled me. But the Pakistani, the Kuwaiti, and the two Saudi fighters breaking the Ramadan fast with me seemed unperturbed. ‘You wouldn’t be so scared if you had Allah, Anna!’ one of them said.” The Daily Beast’s Anna Therese Day: Dining with al-Qaeda.

  6. SoftSoap Creator Dies

    Robert R. Taylor died last month. You may not know the name, but you’ve definitely been touched by his inventions. Among other things, Taylor was the creator of SoftSoap, the first liquid soap that people pumped into their hands. “He was just driving to work one day and he had been looking at the soap in the sink and seeing how messy it was and he was like, ‘There’s got to be a way to not have to deal with that.'” Taylor also employed an incredible strategy to keep the big players from borrowing his idea and putting him out of business. He ordered enough little bottle hand-pumps to creat a massive backlog. It took a year before manufacturers could even take new orders from other customers.

    + “I just regret that I was born in a time when most of those mechanical problems had already been solved and what remained were electronic problems.” That’s how Ray Dolby felt about his era. But he definitely left a mark on it (and just about every movie and audio device in the world) with his passion for better sound. Dolby died earlier this week at the age of 80.

  7. Dinner with Al Qaeda

    As the most eager among us start to pre-order the new iPhones, Bloomberg’s Adam Satariano takes a look at the complex steps required to get the phone from China to your doorstep. It would be even harder to pry one from my clenched fist.

  8. Pay It Forward

    Thomas Weller figured he would die in a snow bank until a stranger came to his rescue. All the stranger asked in return was that Weller pass it on. Since that night in 1964, Weller has been paying it forward. He spends much of his time driving the freeways of San Diego looking for people who need rescuing themselves. “I’m no angel! When you help somebody else, you help yourself.”

  9. The Ig Nobels

    At Harvard, real Nobel Prize winners presented awards to some of their peers who conducted research that seemed sort of, well, funny. The big winner of the night was a team of researchers that found beer goggles also worked on oneself. People tend to think they are more attractive while they’re drunk. Here’s more on them and other winners of this year’s Ig Nobel Prizes.

    + If you’ve got some time and enjoy weirdness, you can even watch the entire awards ceremony right here.

  10. The Bottom of the News

    Things didn’t look good for Lil Bub. She was a rescue cat with osteopetrosis who seemed destined for a humane euthanasia. That was two years ago. Today, Lil Bub has become a dominant player in the extremely competitive world of cute Internet cats. Here’s a look at how she’s building her empire.

    + It’s Friday the 13th. Gizmodo explains why people think this day is so unlucky. Even if you’re not concerned about such superstitions, you might pause before getting on a Friday the 13th flight 666 to HEL.

    + This is what a music festival looks like, the morning after. That’s about how my kitchen will look a few hours after our family breaks the Yom Kippur fast this weekend.