Who would’ve thought that 140-character musings could be so culturally significant? First Google announces that it will index billions of Twitter posts into a searchable database, and now the venerable Library of Congress say it plans to preserve the entire archive of public tweets. Twitter’s official blog made the announcement today.
So why would a respected research institution such as the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library that stores a copy of every book, pamphlet, map, and tune registered in the United States, want to preserve billions of hastily written, often incomprehensible text blurbs? Mostly to preserve the public’s real-time take on historical events, it seems.
“Over the years, tweets have become part of significant global events around the world—from historic elections to devastating disasters,” the Twitter blog states. This was certainly the case last summer when Iranian dissidents and journalists used the micro-blogging service to give the outside world a glimpse into their nation’s internal strife. Twitter played a similar, get-the-news-out role in the days following recent natural disasters, including earthquakes in Chile and Haiti.
Twitter receives 55 million tweets a day, the company reports, and that number will undoubtedly rise as the service adds new users to its current total of 105 million. And buried among billions of those narcissistic, boring, and inane tweets, well, there’s bound to some good stuff of historical value.
If your tweets are private, fear not: The Library of Congress will only preserve public comments, and it’ll receive the tweets after a six-month delay. So if you’ve posted something really embarrassing, you’d better delete it now.
Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.