The Evolution of Languages on Twitter

Revolution. Global economy. Internet access. What story do you see?

This interactive visualization shows the evolution of languages of Tweets according to the language that the user selected in their Twitter profile. The height of the line reflects the percentage of total Tweets and the vertical order is based on rank vs. other languages.

Check it out. Hover over it. See how the languages you care about have changed since the beginning of Twitter.

As you’d expect, Twitter was predominantly English speaking in the early days, but that’s changed as Twitter has grown its adoption globally. English is still the dominant language but with only 51% share in 2013 vs. 79% in 2007. Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese emerged the consistent number two, three and four languages. Beyond that, you can see that relative rankings change dramatically year over year.

In this data, you can see several different stories. The sharp rise in Arabic reflects the impact of the Arab Spring – a series of revolutionary events that made use of Twitter. A spike in Indonesian is indicative of a country with a fast growing online population. Turkish starts to see growth and we expect that growth will continue to spike after the Occupygezi movement. Or step back for a broader view of the timeline; the suggestion of a spread in the globalization of communication networks comes to mind. Each potential story could be a reason to drill down further, expose new ideas and explore the facts.

Adding your own perspective, what story do you see?

(Curious about how we created this viz? Look for our blog post later tomorrow for that story.)

The Timing of a Joke (on Twitter) is Everything

At Gnip, we’re always curious about how news travels on social media, so when the Royal Baby was born, we wanted to find some of the most popular posts. While digging around, we found a Tweet on the Royal Baby that was a joke from account @_Snape_ on July 22, 2013.

With more than 53,000 Retweets and more than 19,000 Favorites, this Tweet certainly resonated with Snape’s million-plus followers. But while exploring the data, we saw an interesting pattern: people were Retweeting this joke before Snape used it. How was this possible? At first, we assumed that Snape was a joke-stealer, but going back several years, we saw that Snape had actually thrice Tweeted the same joke!

Interest in the joke varied by Snape’s delivery date. An indicator for how well a joke resonates with an audience is the length of time over which the Tweet is Retweeted. In general, content on Twitter has a short shelf life, meaning that people typically stop Retweeting the content within a few hours. The graph below has dashed lines indicating the half-life for each time Snape delivered the joke, which we can use to see how much time passed before half of the total Retweets took place. So for the first two uses of the joke, half of all Retweets took place within an hour. The third use case has a significantly longer half-life, especially by Twitter’s standards. Uniquely timed with the actual birth of the newest Prince George, the July date coincided with all of the anticipation about the Royal Baby and created the perfect storm for this Half-blooded Prince joke to keep going…and going…and going. The timing was impeccable and shows timing matters for humor on Twitter.