Twitter Grows 131 Percent in March

Twitter grew 131 percent in March 2009, according to research firm ComScore, which pegged the site's visitors at 9.3 million, up from 4.3 million in February. Twitter drew increased attention recently over rumors of a possible Google acquisition. A ComScore analyst attributes a substantial portion of Twitter's growth to increased media attention.

Twitter grew 131 percent in March 2009, with its total site visitors cresting at 9.3 million, up from 4.3 million in February.

The microblogging site, which lets its users post "tweets" of 140 characters or less on any particular topic, has been embraced by general users and the enterprise as a supple social networking tool. Twitter has been adding new features, and befitting its increased profile, has been rumored as a Google acquisition target.

"One interesting theory alluded to by several people in last week's discussion was that the mainstream media attention on Twitter is really helping fuel its growth," Andrew Lipsman, an analyst with ComScore, wrote in a corporate blog posting on April 15. "And there may certainly be some merit to that. It seems you can't get through a typical newscast anymore without some mention of Twitter."

Lipsman cited Newt Gingrich's use of Twitter to comment on President Obama's handling of the Somali pirate crisis as an example of how far the site has penetrated into both daily life and the hourly mass-media stream. He suggested that Twitter is changing the way "our entire news ecosystem operates."

"When I looked at the percentage of visitors to who also visited the Websites of some of the top online news brands and compared it to that of the total U.S. Internet audience, I found a particularly strong level of overlap," Lipsman added. "The average Twitter user was often 2 and 3 times as likely to visit the top online news brands as the average person."

Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has grown to host over 9 million unique users, up from 1 million in 2008. In March 2009, seeking to make itself into a more robust solution, the site added a number of new features, including a newly integrated search bar that allows users to see which topics are currently generating online traffic. It was thought that this would put Twitter in a competitive frame with Google, Yahoo and other search-engine companies.

Such steps led to inevitable buyout buzz. Responding to discussion earlier in April 2009 that Google was in talks to acquire the site, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone blogged that his company was in discussions with unnamed parties "on a variety of subjects" but that Twitter's short-term goal was to remain an "independent company."

In addition to possible acquirers, Twitter has also attracted a host of celebrities, who recognize the site's public-relations potential, to its user ranks. Actor Ashton Kutcher is currently in a race with CNN to attain 1 million followers.

Recognizing its potential utility to the enterprise, recently added the site to its Service Cloud solution, which Microsoft sponsored a site, ExecTweets, as part of its "It's Everybody's Business" campaign.

The ExecTweets site represents one way in which Twitter could potentially earn revenue going forward; the company is also planning to offer paid commercial accounts at some point in 2009.

Twitter recently eradicated the "StalkDaily" worm, which hijacked user accounts and spread messages that read "Mikeyy" throughout the site's network. Created by a bored 17-year-old, the worm unleashed four waves of attacks until Twitter's security teams managed to suppress the infection on April 13.

By the last round of attacks, the worm had started sending messages that read "Hire Mikeyy," followed by the malware developer's phone number. A reporter from eWEEK dialed the number, which rang without sending the call to voicemail.