Wall Street investors and Twitter employees were up early Thursday morning to breathlessly count the minutes--and the pennies--until the stock market opened in New York and Twitter's share price would be decided.
Twitter avoided the IPO catastrophe that befell rival Facebook last year and smoothly debuted on the New York Stock Exchange at $45.10 a share. That's much higher than the $26 Twitter had set for each of the 70 million shares the network is initially offering. At that price, Twitter is worth about $31 billion. Twitter's early investors are now rolling around in their piles of cash on the floor of the stock exchange. (That's how IPOs work, right?)
This Wall Street talk means absolutely nothing to regular people--people who don't plan to buy shares of Twitter and people who don't stand to make a mint by working at Twitter--though the long-term effects of Twitter's IPO will be felt as the social network goes even more corporate. If you think Facebook's patina of cool was erased when it went public, going from a cool tech toy for the in crowd to a site even your grandmother can love, get ready for more of the same from Twitter.
But unlike Facebook, which has fully penetrated every corner of our lives--and our family events--Twitter isn't quite as popular as all this hype makes it seem. The network has 218 million monthly active users, 77 percent of whom live outside the U.S. That means only about 50 million Americans use Twitter regularly. That's a very small number. Even if Twitter makes big changes to the user experience to turn tweets into revenue--of which it has very little--those changes wouldn't affect nearly as many people as Facebook's changes do.
That's why Twitter wants--and needs--more users. The network is going out of its way to explain how Twitter works and what to use it for so newbies won't feel overwhelmed (or bored) by their streams.
Investors are taking a chance on Twitter. Good for them. But all you really need to know about the network is that it allows magic like this to happen: