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Major News Stories

A Threat to Google

Even the mighty Internet juggernaut Google sees Twitter's real time news coverage as a threat. At Google's Zeitgeist conference, CEO Eric Schmidt recently said, "People really want to do stuff real time, and I think that they [Twitter] have done a great job about it." He went on to say, "I think we have done a relatively poor job of creating things that work on a per-second basis" [source: Wray].

Recently Twitter stopped following the news and started making it. The popular micro-blogging service has begun to emerge as an outlet for citizen journalists. It's not surprising; Twitter provides information in real time, and sending out a tweet is as easy as texting a message. The service has a leg up on outlets like YouTube, with its prerecorded videos, and Ustream, which is live but requires mobile devices equipped with video cameras to use.

Twitter has broken several major news stories, resulting in both more traffic and outages for the site. On Jan. 15, 2009, Janis Krums happened to be on a ferry that helped save the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 after it crashed into the Hudson River. He snapped a now-famous picture of the wreck, with the plane's passengers standing on its wings, and uploaded it to Twitter. Soon after, Twitter was providing more whale sightings than news coverage, as all the new traffic brought by Krums' image quickly crashed the service [source: LATimes].

Regardless of whether Twitter's servers are capable of keeping up with demand on breaking news stories, as more people across the globe use the service, the greater the odds are that tweets will be sent from the scene. From the Mumbai terrorist attacks to the Iranian elections, people used Twitter to document events as they unfolded. Unfortunately, judging from Twitter's past, the larger the news event, the greater the chance the service won't be able to keep up and will crash when people need it the most.

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