Twitter aiming high: 1 billion users

Analyst says as e-mail becomes 'old people tool,' younger users will turn to Twitter

Watch out, Facebook. Twitter is setting its sights on you and your huge lead in the social networking business.

Evan Williams, a Twitter co-founder who recently stepped down as CEO, said this week that he expects the microblogging site, which currently has about 165 million members, to hit 1 billion users. Of course he took some of the pressure off of the company by not saying when he expects it will hit that lofty milestone.

Speaking on Monday at the at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Williams said that hitting the billion-user mark is inevitable for Twitter.

Meanwhile, social networking rival Facebook has better odds of reaching that goal in the not-so-distant future.

In July, Facebook announced that it had passed the half-billion-user milestone.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research, said Williams has set a lofty goal for Twitter, but he noted that the company does have a chance to meet it.

"A billion does seem a bit aggressive," said Kerravala. "But I do think, over time, social networking will overtake e-mail as the most popular communication tool. In that light, 1 billion isn't out of reach. Younger people will choose Twitter and Facebook over e-mail."

E-mail, according to Kerravala, is so, well, yesterday, while Twitter is more like a modern, digital fire hose.

"Over the next five years, as high school kids go to college and college kids enter the workforce, we'll see a rapid shift away from 'old people' communication tools like e-mail and the phone," he added. "Twitter allows you to reach out to thousands of people at once."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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