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Twitter sees strong growth in Russia

As I wrote last week, Twitter is starting to expand beyond its English-language roots in the US. Yesterday the Russian search engine Yandex released a short fact sheet on Russian language Twitter users. Here are the highlights (via Nick Wilson):

* Yandex estimates 183 thousand Russian accounts on Twitter
* More than 60% of Russian-speaking users update their Twitter stream every day
* 67% of all Tweets contain links, 8% of Tweets contain links to the media.
* During the winter 2009-2010 the number of Russian-speaking users on Twitter has
increased by 42%. In the year period from March 2009 to March 2010, by 26%.
* About 150 thousand Tweets (messages) are posted each day in Russian. 5% of them are ReTweets.
* There are more than 125 thousands links published on Twitter each day.
* Yandex studies more than 20 microblogging services in RuNet. Every day, more than 2 millions entries are made.

Perhaps most interesting is how strong the growth is during the winter compared to spring – gotta do something during those long Russian winters I guess. Yandex has also created a list of the most popular Russian Twitter users. Not much on the substance of the discussions taking place, but we are starting to dig into that now.

US Set to Relax Internet Restrictions Towards Iran, Syria and Cuba

This morning the New York Times quotes a ‘senior administration official’ who says that the US is set to relax sanctions against Iran, Syria and Cuba to allow US companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to allow downloads of personal Web-based services in those countries. Around the water cooler this morning, my colleague Jill York correctly pointed out that the article appears to conflate too many things together when it describes ‘Internet services’ that are currently banned, and that might be allowed as part of the planned waiver. My understanding is that any service that is based ‘in the cloud’ (gmail, twitter, etc.) is currently allowed to be used in Iran, Syria and Cuba because they do not require users to download software to use those services. It seems that Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is considering a blanket waiver that will permit US companies to allow users in those sanctioned countries to also use services (such as MSN chat) that require a download. It’s not clear if the type of software downloads will be limited to ‘communications’ services, or if broader downloads of services such as Google Earth or Adobe Photoshop will be allowed. It strikes me that the broader the type of downloads allowed the better, since the more services available not only allow for greater creativity in how users mash-up blogs, video, photos, email, etc., but that also makes it harder for states to block one type of service if many are available and being used together. However, given that circumvention tools will not be included in this waiver, it appears that the language may be fairly restrictive. Regardless of how the technicalities shake out, this seems like a positive step forward and I’m hopeful even smaller companies like Blue Host, that have been denying use of their Web hosting service in any country with even fairly limited US sanctions, will again make their services more widely available.

UPDATE: Here’s the official Treasury announcement and the updated rule–looks like Syria loses out on this one. From Deputy Treasury Secretary Wolin:

The new general licenses authorize exports from the United States or by U.S. persons to persons in Iran and Sudan of services and software related to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet, including web browsing, blogging, email, instant messaging, and chat; social networking; and photo and movie sharing. Today’s amendments also provide that specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis for the exportation of services and software used to share information over the Internet that not covered by the general licenses.

50 Million Tweets a Day

twitter growth

According to the Twitter blog, last year Twitter use grew by 1,400%, and now there are over 50 million tweets a day, or 600 a second on average. Our friends at the Web Ecology Project have done some of the best early research on Twitter. While #iranelection was a major story in 2009, it pales in comparison to the number of Tweets about Michael Jackson’s death (78 per second at its peak) over a similar two week period. In fact, it appears that Jackson’s death actually sucked all the air out of the Iran election discussion on Twitter, according to what Ethan Zuckerman tells me based on Media Cloud data.
While this remains primarily an English language and US-centered technology, it has been interesting to see the growth of other languages, including Russian, which we are digging into more deeply, (to say nothing of the strength of Malay(!) on Twitter). The Russian search giant Yandex already has a number of Tweeters among their top 1000 bloggers, and they reported last year that microblogging platforms have seen impressive growth, led by Twitter but also including Juick, a Jabber application. Whether or not all of this is a good thing we’ll leave up to others to debate, but it seems that the people are voting with their feet on this one.
twitter languages
Hat Tip: The Daily Dish