The Twitter service invites you to publicly answer the question, "What are you doing?"
Thanks to the rise of blogging, MySpace, Facebook and other personalized Web page services, it has become common for people to share minute details of their lives. But for those who don't want to commit to a fully thought-out journal entry, a new service makes it possible to keep your friends updated anyway.
The service, Twitter, imposes a limit of 140 characters for messages. In addition to appearing on the Web, Twitter entries pop up on the instant-messaging (IM) systems and cell phones of the user's personal contact list.
Biz Stone, who co-founded Twitter in San Francisco with fellow entrepreneur ack Dorsey, says the idea for his business emerged from the typical "away message" on IM, which lets messagers know a person has stepped away from the computer.
"[We thought, what if you took] that simple idea of status and you turned it into a service, so that you and your friends could know what you're doing?" Stone says.
Stone and Dorsey are paying Twitter's 10 employees with their own money, but the service is starting to take off. While Stone will not say how many people use the service, he does say the number of members is doubling every three weeks.
Competitors are emerging, such as the site Jaiku and Kyte, which allows people to send photos and videos from their phones to an online site. The concept is also crossing over to other media. OurChart, a Web site founded by producers of the Showtime hit The L Word, is launching a Twitter soap opera that will use short messages to tell the story of two women starting and having a relationship.
Twitter has also inspired some users to get back in touch with their haiku skills. As one user recently "tweeted": "very crazy day/ please don't ask me about work/ folks, seriously."