Is Twitter about to hit the big time?

Twitter – a social network that allows users to post short messages to their online friends by SMS or instant messenger – could be about to hit the web 2.0 mainstream, new usage data suggests.

According to web analytics firm Compete, Twitter’s traffic has nearly doubled between February and April this year to just less than 1.2 million visitors per month, while time spent on the site quadrupled over the same period.

And the boost to Twitter appears to have emerged out of two rather unique events. The first, in April, involved a young student user of Twitter who was travelling in Egypt. He was reportedly arrested by local police for the seemingly innocuous act of taking a photo of a building. He quickly sent a message to his Twitter network before being thrown in the slammer, which alerted his university to the problem. Before long the US embassy and a lawyer came to his aid and he was released.

The second event concerns the recent tragic earthquake in China. Blogger and Twitter user Robert Scoble reports that Twitter users in China got out word about the quake as it happened, helping get out word about the disaster before the mainstream online media.

Twitter as social network, reportage device and emergency help communicator? No wonder it’s catching on.


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