The U.S. State Department asks Twitter to delay maintenance plans for the weekend so Iranians voting in Friday's election can communicate instantly, and defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi uses Twitter to organize protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The FBI tracks Twitter to stop a crazed Oklahoma City man from turning the April 15 Tea Party Protests into what he warned would be a bloodbath. Beating even The New York Times, a ferry passenger on the Hudson River uses Twitter to deliver the first reports and pictures of U.S. Airways Flight #1549's emergency landing.

The instant firsthand information sent from someone's cell phone or computer to the Twitter stream is appealing to this wiki culture; nowadays, we trust mass accumulation of knowledge more than we do an authority figure's research. Besides, there's nothing quite like being able to talk directly to the guy who watched the school bus tip over 20 seconds ago.

As popular as Twitter is (reporting over 7 million users this winter, with a 1382 percent growth rate from 2008), many people still don't know about it, or dismiss its usefulness when they learn about it. (As guest editor of Newsweek last week, satirist Stephen Colbert poked fun at the three-year-old site by proposing the cover story, "Hey, Have You Heard About This Thing Called Twitter?") I happen to know a few folks who have enjoyed a chuckle on my behalf when I call myself a "Twit." It's not worth the risk of being labeled a rabid Twitter evangelist, so I usually refrain from giving my whole spiel to my skeptical friends (I limit it to 20 minutes).

Twitter is a micro-blogging and social-networking site that allows you to post and read status updates ("tweets") in 140 characters from your computer or cell ...

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