Twitter tops 10 billion tweets

It took more than three years for Twitter to reach 10 billion tweets. But thanks to rapid growth, 20 billion doesn't seem too far away.

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    The GigaTweet counter rolls past 10 billion tweets Thursday night. Twitter has seen a rapid acceleration over the past year, doubling from five billion to today's 10 billion in just four months.
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After Twitter's launch in 2006, it took years to collect its first one billion tweets. It finally crossed the billion benchmark in November, 2008. Just one year later, Twitter hit five billion messages. And today – only four months later – that number has doubled, according to Twitter counter GigaTweet. Thursday night at about 7:50 p.m. Eastern time, the site hit 10 billion tweets.

In a way, today's milestone is no surprise. As we reported last month, Twitter now pulls in 50 million messages every day – or 600 tweets a second. It's lost momentum in recent months. But thanks to partnerships with Bing, Google, and Yahoo, more and more people are discovering the micro blogging tool.

IN PICTURES: Top Twitter moments

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While GigaTweet's screaming-fast counter is fun to watch, here's a way to figure out where you fit in the bigger picture. Every tweet comes with a unique URL. For example, Horizons's most recent tweet was http://twitter.com/csmhorizonsblog/status/9979798846. That makes it the 9,979,798,846th tweet.

Twitter has reached this milestone by constantly attracting new demographics. First came early adopters at South by Southwest in 2007. Then flocked news junkies, looking for up-to-the-second reports. Businesses jumped in soon after to tap Twitter's potential for marketing. Oprah joined the party and brought a whole new kind of tweeter with her. But while new users join all the time, few stay for very long. As colleague Matt Shaer put it:

In January, for instance, RJ Metrics estimated that the average Twitter user has 27 followers, compared to an average of 42 followers last August. Another interesting stat, also from RJ Metrics: A full 80 percent of Twitter users posts 10 times or less before abandoning his or her Twitter feed. Meanwhile, the Pew Internet and American Life Project says that teens – an influential demographic, as far as online trends go – are flocking to Facebook, but rarely to Twitter.

So how can we interpret [these] findings? Well, on the one hand, it likely means that Twitter is developing a base of "power users," who tweet hard and tweet often. And no matter which way you slice it, 50 million tweets a day is an impressive, jaw-dropping number. But Twitter clearly has a weakness in the retention and recruitment department: many users aren't staying, and younger users aren't exactly signing on in hordes.

IN PICTURES: Top Twitter moments

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Any guesses on when Twitter will hit 20 billion? Later this year? 2011? Share your predictions and thoughts in the comments section, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more news.

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