Twitter becomes public's rapid-fire news service
BEFORE the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century, news from far-flung outposts took weeks to reach civilisation. Now Twitter can do the same within seconds.
What started as a website to allow friends send messages to each other has become the world's fastest news service.
It takes only a few moments for someone to publish via phone or computer a message viewable by millions on the web or newer phones such as the iPhone.
Signing up is a simple, free process and most users decide to "follow" a few hundred Twitterers as well contributing themselves.
Twitter can be bewildering, like listening to thousands of conversations at once, but most people dip in and out of the constant stream of messages.
Whenever a major event happens almost anywhere in the world, someone will tweet it almost instantly.
Twitter is how we first learned of the plane landing on New York's Hudson River last year.
When an event or subject captures the imagination of the Twitter population, users often incorporate a label known as a "hashtag" so their message becomes part of a conversation.
Several hundred Twitter messages yesterday used the tag "#cowen" to comment on the RTE interview.