US librarian in chief puts Twitter into aspic

The first draft of history is now 140 chars long


The short-form outpourings of Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and millions of other Twitterers are to be preserved for the ages after the US Library of Congress revealed it would begin archiving Twitter.

The prime DC knowledge repository asked the company, which lacked a business model until yesterday, to hand over all its users' musings so that future historians can dumpster dive through history, 140 characters at a time.

On its Facebook page, the custodians of the US's cultural patrimony posted a sober run down of its plans:

"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."

Its poster added, "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!"

If anyone doubts that Twitter will supplant dusty old media organisations and politicians diaries as the definitive recorders of history as it happens, the LOC has a handy list of key moments since the birth of Twitter.

"Just a few examples of important tweets in the past few years include the first ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, President Obama's tweet about winning the 2008 election, 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."

Inevitably, some spoilsports immediately started ranting about the US government infringing Twitterers' privacy, though Twitter and the Library of Congress point out that only public Tweets will be archived. Tweets will only be handed over after six months.

As one Alfredo Gonzalez commented, "Now my grandchildren will be able to read about #redhotpooper."

Or, as Dave Land pointed out, "Turns the old proverb 'History is written by the winners' on its head." ®


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