Thanks to a new initiative by the Library of Congress, time travel is closer than you might think — at least in the Twitter universe.
The Library announced Wednesday — on its Twitter, of course — that it had acquired the “ENTIRE Twitter archive. ALL tweets,” meaning the billions of 140-words-or-less posts since the site launched in March 2006.
“Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition,” the Library’s Director of Communications Matt Raymond wrote in a blog post on blogs.loc.gov. “I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data. And I’m certain we’ll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive.”
The blog cites some posts that the Library deemed very important. These include President Barack Obama’s first post after winning the 2008 election, which reads: “We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks.”
It also displayed the first tweet ever from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who wrote, “just setting up my twttr.”
Bloggers have since protested the idea, saying it’s not good to immortalize tweets as history, which is valid, considering many Twitter posts consist of observations about the weather or what the poster ate for dinner. Complaints from Internet bloggers haven’t stopped Google from advertising a similar endeavor on its blog Wednesday.
Google has offered a live feed of Twitter posts on search topics for some time, but the newest feature allows users to “zoom in” on Twitter posts from different months, days and times. Currently, the service only applies to posts from this year, but ultimately, Google will have posts dating back to Twitter’s origin.
For example, if you search “health care” and select “show options” and “updates,” you will see a list of recent Twitter posts on the subject, as well as a bar graph.
The graph, when zoomed out to just the “2010” option, illustrates when the topic was most talked about, organized by month, day and hour.
The program is still buggy and, much like the Library of Congress’ archive, it is developing. However, the idea is an interesting one. It should also caution you to — as always — be careful what you post on Twitter. Those embarrassing college posts may not seem as cute when a potential employer does a search of your name.