Have you ever sent out a “tweet” on the popular Twitter social media service? Congratulations: Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress.
That’s right. Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions.
We thought it fitting to give the initial heads-up to the Twitter community itself via our own feed @librarycongress. (By the way, out of sheer coincidence, the announcement comes on the same day our own number of feed-followers has surpassed 50,000. I love serendipity!)
We will also be putting out a press release later with even more details and quotes. Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition. I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data. And I’m certain we’ll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive.
Just a few examples of important tweets in the past few years include the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (http://twitter.com/jack/status/20), President Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election (http://twitter.com/barackobama/status/992176676), and a set of two tweets from a photojournalist who was arrested in Egypt and then freed because of a series of events set into motion by his use of Twitter (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/786571964) and (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/787167620).
It is our pleasure to donate access to the entire archive of public Tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation and research. It's very exciting that tweets are becoming part of history. It should be noted that there are some specifics regarding this arrangement. Only after a six-month delay can the Tweets be used for internal library use, for non-commercial research, public display by the library itself, and preservation.
The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. This is something we firmly believe and it has driven many of our decisions regarding openness. Today we are also excited to share the news that Google has created a wonderful new way to revisit tweets related to historic events. They call it Google Replay because it lets you relive a real time search from specific moments in time.
Google Replay currently only goes back a few months but eventually it will reach back to the very first Tweets ever created. Feel free to give Replay a try—if you want to understand the popular contemporaneous reaction to the retirement of Justice Stevens, the health care bill, or Justin Bieber's latest album, you can virtually time travel and replay the Tweets. The future seems bright for innovation on the Twitter platform and so it seems, does the past!
Since we first introduced real-time search last December, we’ve added content from MySpace, Facebook and Buzz, expanded to 40 languages and added a top links feature to help you find the most relevant content shared on updates services like Twitter. Today, we’re introducing a new feature to help you search and explore the public archive of tweets.
With the advent of blogs and micro-blogs, there’s a constant online conversation about breaking news, people and places — some famous and some local. Tweets and other short-form updates create a history of commentary that can provide valuable insights into what’s happened and how people have reacted. We want to give you a way to search across this information and make it useful.
Starting today, you can zoom to any point in time and “replay” what people were saying publicly about a topic on Twitter.
So if you think the Library of Congress is “just books,” think of this: The Library has been collecting materials from the web since it began harvesting congressional and presidential campaign websites in 2000. Today we hold more than 167 terabytes of web-based information, including legal blogs, websites of candidates for national office, and websites of Members of Congress.
We also operate the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program www.digitalpreservation.gov, which is pursuing a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations.
In other words, if you’re looking for a place where important historical and other information in digital form should be preserved for the long haul, we’re it!