Two second-year Computer Science students, David Somers and Tom Brearley, have achieved national recognition for their internet application ‘Twitterfall’.
The application allows users of the social networking site Twitter.com to view the latest ‘tweets’ of upcoming trends and custom searches, showing the messages in near real-time.
Officially released just over a month ago, Twitterfall is already being used in the Daily Telegraph and Guardian newsrooms, and was named in the Telegraph’s ‘Top 20 Twitter Utilities’.
The pair spotted a niche in the market in early January, when they noticed the number of ‘tweets’ relating to the upcoming MacWorld conference, but realised there was no utility to allow Twitter users to view only those messages specifically. In under two hours, Somers and Brearley created a prototype of the program to coincide with the start of the conference, receiving 200 hits almost immediately.
Realising the potential of the then unnamed Twitterfall the pair began to develop a more concrete version of the application 2 weeks later, describing it more as a “fun little project” done purely out of a “mutual curiosity” than anything else. Currently, the site receives around 3,000 users per day.
Twitterfall.com was officially launched on January 19th and in the first week of release was highly recommended by Digg.com founder Kevin Rose, receiving 7,000 hits on the day he mentioned it. Somers and Brearley remarked how their application represents a new generation which has “come to expect information in near real-time, as soon as it happens”. The recent Schipol plane crash was reported on Twitterfall before it was picked up by either the BBC website or live news broadcasters.
Computerworld.com has labelled their creation: ‘The next big thing – Twitterfall, the best Twitter client ever’. Twitterfall is also being taught in many social media courses across the UK.
So far, Somers and Brearley have not advertised the application, relying on users alone to spread the word among the online community, stating “as far as promotion goes, it’s pretty much promoting itself”.
In the future, the pair are looking to develop the program so it can be used in conjunction with mobile devices, and have also discussed the possibility of selling the technology to various major companies, but remain adamant that they “still want to maintain control”.
Somers and Brearley describe the past couple of months as “surreal”, saying it’s “crazy how major newspapers are using our little toy.”
“It’s exciting to be working on things people are really using,” they said, modestly adding: “Real people don’t know who we are.”