Twitter is one of the tech wonders that really took off last year. According to number of unique visitors to Twitter has increased almost 10 times from Dec ‘07 to Dec ‘08. If we also account for the fact that most Twitter users use it from desktop applications that are not easy to track, the actual usage numbers are probably even more impressive. No doubt, that’s a mind-bobbling success for any Web-based business.

But what is Twitter? The Twitter website describes itself as follows:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Now, that does not sound too interesting. Let’s be honest: most people don’t do anything worth announcing across the world. Unless you are some kind of serious travel-addict or a wild celebrity of sorts, which most of us, are not. Who wants to read meaningless messages like: “Went out to get some food from McDonalds. Recession, indeed” from dozens of people?

Then why do millions of people use Twitter?

Because Twitter simply is not what it says it is. We’ve blogged about how social networks have an interesting characteristics of evolving themselves way beyond the initial idea. Once you have sufficient number (the “critical mass”) of users, the social network becomes a living, breathing creature that can decide its fate on its own. That is exactly the case of Twitter.

Twitter is interesting, because people who are interesting on Twitter do not answer the question of “What are you doing”? They answer a much more important question of “What are you thinking about [right now]?” Now, that can be incomparably more interesting. Whilst what we physically do is limited, and we don’t usually do anything too exciting, what we can think about is limitless and full of creativity (well, sometimes).

Twitter is successful, because its users found out that instead of treating it as a tool for satisfying selfish (some would say: adolescent) need of announcing meaningless, personal activities, it could be used for something that later became known as Microblogging.

Microblogging is a combination of quickly dumping short (limited to 140 characters) thoughts and observations, plus sharing links to interesting web-pages you stumble upon, with like-minded people all over the Web. The “like-minded people” is the key in successfully using Twitter to its potential. You want to “follow” people who are interested and researching the same kinds of things you are, not necessarily - your friends. In this Twitter can be very different from Facebook.

Choose very carefully who you are following on Twitter and start building a meaningful list of followers - you will quickly come to love it.