The 7 Most Important Moments in Twitter History

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Brian Ach / 2013 Getty Images

Ashton Kutcher

Twitter is all grown up. The social network that was once derided as the place to post what you had for lunch is going public today, offering 70 million shares at an initial $26 price. Somehow, among the glut of social networks that emerged in the mid-2000s, Twitter survived Fail Whales, corporate back-stabbings and attempted buyouts by Yahoo, Facebook and Al Gore to become one of the biggest websites on the Internet, with 230 million monthly active users. Here, a look back at the important moments that shaped the social network and check out TIME’s 140 Moments That Made Twitter Matter.

Jack Dorsey Sends First Message on twttr – March 21, 2006

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first official message on the micro-blogging service. The events that led to this inaugural tweet are the subject of intense debate. Twitter emerged from the ashes of a failed podcasting company called Odeo founded by Evan Williams (the creator of Blogger) and Noah Glass, a friend of Williams. Dorsey, an Odeo employee, has taken much of the credit for the concept of Twitter, but a new book by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton asserts that Glass actually came up with the name Twitter. (He supposedly looked through a dictionary for words similar to ‘twitch.’) He also may have realized that Twitter should revolve around conversations and not just one-way dispatches about what users had for breakfast. Ultimately, only the founders know exactly who is responsible for the various aspects of Twitter. Glass was pushed out of the company before it took shape, while Dorsey became its first CEO.

(MOREHow Twitter Harpooned the ‘Fail Whale’)

Twitter’s Coming Out Party – March 2007

Twitter (originally ‘twttr’) grew slowly in its first year but gained lots of media attention at the South by Southwest interactive festival in 2007. The company spent $11,000 to set up 51-inch plasma screens around the SXSW grounds where they broadcast tweets that were being sent by festival attendees. The stunt worked—Twitter activity increased from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000, according to Gawker.

Twitter Users Birth the Hashtag (and the Retweet) – Aug. 23, 2007

It was Twitter’s avid users that began to impose some sense of order on the social network’s endless data stream. Web developer Chris Messina first developed the idea of organizing categories of conversation with the pound symbol, though he says Twitter told him the concept was “too nerdy” to catch on. Robert Andersen used the first used the “@” reply in November 2006. In April 2007, user Eric Rice invented the retweet by literally using the word “ReTweet” in front of a message. All three features were later adopted as official parts of Twitter lexicon.

Ashton Kutcher Gets 1 Million Followers – April 17, 2009

Though Kutcher was not an early investor in Twitter, the company owes a lot to the actor. He was one of the first celebrities to join the social network and won a highly publicized race with CNN to reach 1 million followers. Fittingly, Oprah Winfrey sent her first tweet the day Kutcher passed the million-follower mark, showing that the social network was truly for all ages. Today most of the most popular Twitter users are celebrities and trending topics often revolve around them.

(MORE140 Moments that Made Twitter Matter)

Twitter Introduces Promoted Tweets – April 13, 2010

For years Twitter shrugged off questions of how it would ever make money. That finally changed in 2010, when the company introduced promoted tweets in users’ search results and timelines. Twitter’s slate of ad products has since expanded to include video clips and promoted trending topics. The company has generated $474 million in ad revenue in the last year and is projected to generate close to a billion dollars in total revenue in 2014.

Dick Costolo Named CEO of Twitter – October 4, 2010

The company’s current chief originally served as Twitter’s first chief operating officer. According to the Times’ Bilton, Costolo was just the latest in a line of Twitter usurpers. Co-founder Evan Williams was pushed out of the CEO suite by the company’s board of directors in favor of Costolo, after he himself had pushed Jack Dorsey out in October 2008. Despite early upheaval, Twitter seems to have developed some semblance of stability under Costolo. The infamous Fail Whale has been thwarted, the company has developed lucrative deals with TV networks, and its has limited third-party clients to drive more traffic to Twitter’s official apps.

Twitter Announces IPO…on Twitter – September 12, 2013

Twitter’s 2013 public offering has taken the tech world by surprise, as the company had been expected to go public in 2014. The social network will have the biggest IPO of an Internet stock since Facebook in May 2012 and will try to avoid that company’s misfires (Facebook shares tumbled immediately on Wall Street and did not return to their IPO price for more than a year). From its humble beginnings as a messaging service powered mostly by texting via cellphone, Twitter arrives on Wall Street seven years later as an Internet giant with a market capitalization above $13 billion.

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