How Twitpic Works

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Twitpic not only stores your images, it also stashes away other data, such as your location when you took the picture (if you entered it or are using a smartphone to snap your shots, which often adds your location automatically using GPS). When you delete a photograph, it's "no longer viewable" according to Twitpic's terms of service, which doesn't necessarily mean that it no longer exists on the server.

Although Twitpic can be used just to store images, it's more about immediacy than posterity and capturing a moment in time -- much like Twitter itself. Many users employ Twitpic to Tweet images of great meals they've just eaten, a person they just met, something that they just bought or are thinking about buying. Another way to take advantage of Twitpic when you're on the go is to quickly share and save images; later on, when you have the time, you can pick and choose what you want to keep long term.

One interesting way to share your pictures via Twitpic is to link them with an event. On Twitter, events are real-time interactions between users about a topic that last for a specific amount of time. Usually, there's a host or an organizer asking questions and seeking feedback. There's an assigned hashtag so that anybody participating in the event (also known as a Twitter chat or party) can easily follow the participants' Tweets. When uploading a picture from Twitpic's site, you have the option (in the second step) to create an event, including the title, description and trigger (which is a hashtag). Once you build and save the event, it's stored in Twitpic; you can choose it from the drop-down menu to add a picture to it.

So-called "citizen journalists" have availed themselves of Twitpic to quickly share photos of important events in real-time, usually before any members of the media arrive on the scene. One recent example of this happened in 2009, when a U.S. Airways plane crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York City. The first image of passengers being rescued from the plane came from a passenger named Janis Krums, who was on a ferry in the river. Krums took a photo with his iPhone, then used Twitpic to upload it to Twitter. Within half an hour of sending the Tweet, Krums was interviewed on TV as a witness to the event.

OK, so now you've got some tricks for using Twitpic up your sleeve -- and ideas for ways to use it -- but maybe you're curious about the technology behind it? On the next page, we'll take a peek under Twitpic's hood.