Twitter, which was created by a 10-person start-up in San Francisco called Obvious, is a heady mixture of messaging; social networking of the sort associated with Web sites like MySpace; the terse, jittery personal revelations of ?microblogging? found on services like Jaiku; and something called ?presence,? shorthand for the idea that people should enjoy an ?always on? virtual omnipresence.

It?s easy to satirize Twitter?s trendiness, and cranky critics have mocked the banality of most tweets and questioned whether we really need such an assault upon our powers of concentration. But right now, it?s one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.

In March, when Twitter was voted ?best of the Web? at South by Southwest, the annual multimedia and music festival in Austin, the service had 100,000 members, according to Biz Stone, an engineer at Obvious. The festival prize prompted, or coincided with, a remarkably rapid adoption of Twitter by the international digerati. Although Obvious has become secretive about how many people use Twitter, Evan Williams, the founder of Obvious, told me that there were three and a half times more tweets in the second week of April than there were before South by Southwest.

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