As the year draws to a close, it is time to recognise the people, products, organisations, trends and events that have had the greatest influence on the ICT industry and community. We have therefore launched the inaugural Computerworld Top 10 Most Influential.
Last week Computerworld began counting down to the winner with one article each day from 10th place to number one.
When we reach #1 on Friday, it will be over to you for the readers' choice award. If you don't agree with the panel of 12 you can still have your say on the most influential person, product, organisation, trend or event for 2009.
We’ll publish the results on the website and in the February/March issue of Computerworld magazine.
Twitter’s impact in 2009 was such that it’s hard to believe the micro-blogging service debuted less than four years ago. Launched in July 2006, the social network which allows users to post updates in 140 characters or less was at first dismissed by many as a mere gimmick. After all, on the surface, blabbing about what you are doing doesn’t sound like something that will change the world.
But in 2009 Twitter not only changed the way many people communicate online, it became a lifeline. During a harsh government crackdown following the disputed Iranian elections, Twitter really came into its own. The Iranian government blocked or shut down phone lines, Facebook, YouTube and text messaging, but people could send photos and information from Iran in short bursts, telling their own story. The incident led a former US national security adviser to call for the service and its creators to be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize for the role they played during the civil unrest.
In Australia, Twitter was one of the first places people turned for news regarding the worst bushfires in Australian history.
Not only did a string of high-profile celebrities join the Twitterverse in 2009, government agencies, keen to embrace the openness of social media, joined up in droves; even if they do not post updates, policy makers now find themselves with Twitter accounts to keep up with the latest news on all things Gov 2.0. The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, regularly ‘tweets’ from his verified account and has more than 800,000 ‘followers’.
In March, web satirist and mobile emerging technology specialist, Leslie Nassar, outed himself as the person behind the popular Fake Stephen Conroy twitter account and was quickly silenced by the telco.
Despite such corporate hiccups, Twitter is becoming an integral part of the digital media strategy of many an enterprise — a way of communicating with customers and an instant link to the zeitgeist of the moment. In an interview with Computerworld, company co-founder Biz Stone said Twitter can help people track global events as easily as they track their friends' day-to-day activities.
"It's become the pulse of what's happening in the world," said Stone. "It can be as big as terrorist attacks in Mumbai or as nano as eating a sandwich. You can look at it as trivial or as a pulse of information. It depends on how you customise it.”
Recently, Texas-based Global Language Monitor, which documents, analyses and tracks trends in language around the world, announced "Twitter" as the top word of 2009 based on its annual global survey of English words and phrases that appear in the media and online.
Twitter’s inclusion on the Top 10 Most Influential list caused much debate among the panel — not least because it nudged out Google for the number five spot. But its local growth, its use in education and the Australian link to the famous Twitter Fail Whale, by artist Yiying Lu, all combine to make Twitter a force to be reckoned with and worthy of its number five listing.
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