That Time I Accidentally Invented Twitter

A curio from the archives. Waaaaaay back in 2003, I was working at Vodafone on their graduate training scheme. One of their fancy new ideas was a crowd-sourced employee suggestion box for new business proposals.

As an eager young grad I submitted dozens of ideas. Most of them were crap. But, as I looked back over them, this one struck me as being a lot less crap than others.

Yes, it's an appallingly written proposal. Full of brash arrogance. I hadn't really started blogging in earnest and didn't quite get what all the fuss was about. This was a year before Flickr was launched - and I was talking about sharing photos online using the nascent MMS service.

At the time, SMS was a cash-cows for mobile operators. But MMS was a laggard. It was expensive for operators to add it to their networks, and that cost was passed on to users. And those users needed an expensive phone - and for their friends to also have expensive phones.

Being able to post messages and photos to a group of people - via a "web log" - would have been an interesting way to drive usage. Or so I thought.

I don't remember if any discussions happened around it. And, in truth, I don't think Vodafone would have been able to make it work. They would have locked it down so that only Vodafone UK subscribers could use it, they'd have charged a fortune, and they'd probably have targetted it at salesmen wanting to update their teams.

Perhaps I should have tried to launch it myself? I didn't really know what a start-up was back then, and I had no entrepreneurial zeal. I wasn't a great coder - but neither were the team behind the Fail Whale.

But, just for a minute there, I saw the potential of micro-blogging to change the world.

6 thoughts on “That Time I Accidentally Invented Twitter

  1. Nicely done!

    It's a bit depressing to realize that your in a sense far-superior decentralized architecture probably would not have been nearly as successful.

  2. says:

    I remember brainstorming a proposal in 1999 for a large client that made webcams that they should offer free hosting of user-created videos and a green-screen in the box

  3. a bunch of us were moblogging photos via MMS, @libbymiller built it, and the phone companies contributed giant appendices to each post. Would’ve been more fun if everyone got it for free, and yeah it was nice that it wasn’t tied to your provider…

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