Twitter has revealed today that it now has 10 million active users in the UK and 140 million worldwide, underlining the rapid growth in the microblogging network since it launched just six years ago.
The network, which limits users to 140 character updates, has also changed the dynamic between celebrities and the media. It enables people with a high profile to have direct contact with the public and many have jumped at the chance – the likes of writer and actor Stephen Fry, singer Lily Allen, footballer Joey Barton and politician John Prescott now have millions of followers.
Worldwide, there are 140 million, but we’re only lagging behind the considerably larger potential user bases of the US, Brazil and Japan. And in comparison to other countries, Britain is more likely to use the service “on the go” as its creator Jack Dorsey originally intended when he sketched out the blueprints for the site 12 years ago. Some 80 per cent access the site regularly via their mobile phone compared to the global average of 55 per cent.
Not only do users feel they have direct access to big name stars, but they can also build relationships on a smaller scale. Nicola Morgan, author of Tweet Right: The Sensible Person’s Guide to Twitter, said the site was beginning to reach the level of saturation that Facebook, which boasts 30 million UK users, has already achieved.
“It very cleverly mirrors how we behave in real life, and how we get on as human beings. It’s a great way to be social without having to get dressed,” she said. “I use Facebook as well, but they’re very different. Twitter is more public, more frenetic, it’s like a large group of people meeting together, whereas Facebook is more like having a close conversation with a few friends.”
Although most users are almost certain to log in via a desktop or laptop computer at some point, a Twitter UK spokeswoman said “we have seen growth in the number of people signing up from a mobile”. That, she said, “goes back to the DNA of Twitter” – which was originally set up in 2006 as a service that would work over SMS, which is why its messages are limited to 140 characters.
Twitter use in the UK came into sharp focus in summer 2011 when it was initially blamed for inciting riots in London and other cities. It also saw a sharp peak in use in spring 2011 after the footballer Ryan Giggs sued the company when a number of tweets appeared alleging he had had an affair with a model – a claim which at the time was covered by a superinjunction.
Top 10 UK tweeters and their followers (drawn from worldwide audience of 140 million) –
1. Stephen Fry (actor, writer) – 4.3 million
2. Jessie J (singer, judge on The Voice) – 4.2m
3. Lily Rose Cooper [formerly Allen] (singer) – 3.5m
4. Niall Horan (One Direction singer) – 3.3m
5. Liam Payne (One Direction singer) – 3.1m
6. Emma Watson (actor) – 2.8m
7. Rio Ferdinand (footballer) – 2.7m
8. Eddie Izzard (comedian, actor) – 2.4m
9. Ricky Gervais (comedian, actor) – 2.3m
10. Holly Willoughby (TV host) – 2.3m