It doesn’t matter if you’re a person talking about drinking coffee, a celebrity promoting new work, or a politician announcing a historical victory—your tweets are now permanently saved. Today the Library of Congress announced, via Twitter, that it will archive all public tweets. Twitter soon followed with its own announcement:
Since Twitter began, billions of tweets have been created. Today, fifty-five million tweets a day are sent to Twitter and that number is climbing sharply. A tiny percentage of accounts are protected but most of these tweets are created with the intent that they will be publicly available. Over the years, tweets have become part of significant global events around the world—from historic elections to devastating disasters.
It is our pleasure to donate access to the entire archive of public Tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation and research. It’s very exciting that tweets are becoming part of history.
Now, not only am I an avid Twitter user, but I am also married to a history buff who has repeatedly denounced Twitter as a “waste of time” because the data wasn’t being stored for research purposes. But Twitter’s API has limits on how many of your tweets you can personally archive using applications such as Tweetbook. The fact that now all future and past data from the social networking tool will be publicly archived is a huge step forward in terms of scholarly research.
But that’s not all—Google also announced Google Replay today.
Tweets and other short-form updates create a history of commentary that can provide valuable insights into what’s happened and how people have reacted. We want to give you a way to search across this information and make it useful. Starting today, you can zoom to any point in time and “replay” what people were saying publicly about a topic on Twitter.
While Google Replay currently only searches tweets from the past few months, it will soon allow real-time search of the entire Twitter archive. As for the Library’s archive, Twitter says, “Only after a six-month delay can the Tweets be used for internal library use, for non-commercial research, public display by the library itself, and preservation.”
It’s still unclear as to why the Library of Congress has to wait and Google doesn’t, but that’s just one of many questions raised by Twitter’s digital preservation—like what my husband’s excuse for not tweeting will be now.