Iran turns eyes to Twitter

The global importance of the micro-blogging site Twitter emerges after it provides a way for Iranians to communicate to the world.

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Twitter may be only two years old and not making money yet but it has definitely come of age. Just days after Time magazine put Twitter on its cover and weeks after talk show megastar Oprah Winfrey signed on as a user, Iranians turned to the service to protest the results of their presidential election and get the news out. As Iranians fired off "tweets" about the disputed vote, half a world away in New York hundreds of entrepreneurs, advertisers, technology buffs, media and others from around the world were attending a conference dedicated to Twitter.

And if that was not enough, the importance of the San Francisco-based start-up was underlined by the US State Department, which asked Twitter to postpone a planned maintenance shutdown on Monday because of the situation in Iran. "It's humbling to think that our two-year old company could be playing such a globally meaningful role that State officials find their way toward highlighting our significance," the Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said.

Twitter's real-time messages of 140 characters or less have attracted attention before ? most notably with eyewitness accounts during the November attacks on Mumbai ? but nothing like the focus of the past days and weeks. The brainchild of Mr Stone, Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, Twitter has been adding millions of users a month for the past several months and its website received 32.1 million unique visitors in April, according to comScore.

The actual number of users of the micro-blogging service is hard to figure since Twitter can be accessed using personal computers, mobile telephones and dozens of custom-built applications such as the popular Tweetdeck. The Twitter co-founders have reportedly passed up offers running into the hundreds of millions of dollars for the service and have so far only unveiled vague plans to turn it into a money-making venture.

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