Billions of tweets track the setting sun
Twitter, the world's largest micro-blogging service, is starting to flex its big data entry muscles by digging into the billions of public tweets posted by its users.
A recent study led by Twitter's visual insights manager Miguel Rios, showed how the social media giant can monitor major world events just by looking at the synchrony of specific keywords.
"We can use billions of public tweets to detect events and visualise the synchrony they generate at a large scale," he explained in a Twitter blog post.
Rio's team looked at the frequency of tweets that included the word "sunset". By examining these tweets they were able to monitor the exact time the sun set in different cities. They could also determine other aspects, such as the season, and the time difference if the city was above or below the equatorial line.
With more than 500 million users posting 9,000 tweets every second, according to Statistic Brain, Twitter has real power in numbers. The micro-blogging site's sheer scale and reach mean that as well as tracking the sun, Twitter can also break and drive major news stories.
Andrew Miller, CEO of Britain's Guardian News and Media, said Twitter was now the "fastest way to break a news story".
Miller said the ongoing story of American whistleblower Edward Snowden, which his organisation first picked up on Twitter, was a good example.
"It took an hour before the breaking news stations got this," he told Twitter's blog.
Once The Guardian published its first story about the Snowden case, it had 7 million unique visitors to its site in one day, most of which were attributed to Twitter.