Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


US to archive billions of tweets

22 January 2013, 11:36

Washington - The Library of Congress, repository of the world's largest collection of books, has set for itself the enormous task of archiving something less weighty and far more ephemeral - Americans' billions of tweets.

The US institution is assembling all of the 400 million tweets sent by Americans each day, in the belief that each of the mini-messages reflect a small but important part of the national narrative.

"An element of our mission at the Library of Congress is to collect the story of America, and to acquire collections that will have research value," according to Gayle Osterberg, director of communications at the library.

The Library of Congress, located off the National Mall in Washington, houses millions of hard copy books and historic documents, and its online archives amass millions of additional works produced by Americans for more than two centuries.

Now it wants to be keeper of the nation's brief internet messages as well: Twitter in April 2010 signed a deal with the Library, giving it access to tweets dating back to the company's inception in 2006.


Collecting the 140-character micro-missives, said Osterberg, is in keeping with the library's main goal "to collect the story of America and to acquire collections that will have research value".

One major challenge to the Library, however, is storing the messages from the popular social messaging site, which now number 170 billion. Twitter in December said the number of active users on the messaging platform has topped 200 million, most of whom are in the US.

Tweets that have been deleted or that are locked will not be among those gathered by the Library of Congress.

Among the messages to be preserved for posterity are the first-ever tweets sent by one of the company's founders, Jack Dorsey.

Also saved for all time is a famous tweet sent by US President Barack Obama after his historic November 2008 victory to claim the White House in his first term.

"We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks," read the micro-message from the famously tech-savvy US president.

Unlike traditional bound books or even digital web pages, the real challenge of preserving tweets is keeping up with their number, which has continued to grow almost exponentially.


There were 140 million tweets sent each day in February 2011, but more than three times as many - about a half billion - by October 2012.

The Library of Congress's tweets are being stored by Gnip, a social media aggregation company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, which has put more than 133 000GB of storage space available.

Gnip says it is a particular challenge to gather tweets during "peak" times, such as news event watched the world over like the Japanese tsunami in March 2011, which generated many thousand tweets per second.

It has proven to be a Herculean challenge for Gnip to make tweets accessible to all those who wish to view them.

So far it has been unable to meet the demands of researchers worldwide who hope to access the archive. Even a search among the first four years of tweets, from 2006 to 2010, could take about 24 hours.

"It is clear that technology to allow for scholarship access to large data sets is lagging behind technology for creating and distributing such data," said a recent white paper published by the Library of Congress.

"This is an inadequate situation," the Library concluded, calling the massive archiving project "prohibitively costly".

And yet Lee Humphreys, a professor of communication at Cornell University in New York, said that the brief online messages can reveal volumes "about the culture where they were produced".



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...