Osama bin Laden headshot over twitter page / CBS/AP
Another Twitter "coming of age" moment?
By now, one might have assumed that the tech punditocracy would have gotten past the fact that Twitter has established itself as a vital, - and yes, mainstream - communications tool. But the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces has since let loose a torrent of wide-eyed commentary about how the micro-blogging service merits special attention for being first to spread the news.
Apparently, Keith Urbahn, who worked as Chief of Staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted "I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden." Our own CBS news producer Jill Scott then confirmed the news in a follow-up tweet.
So it works in the world of leaks in a 24 x7 electronic world. But you wouldn't know that judging by the subsequent swell of gee-whiz commentary proclaiming this moment as a historic one for Twitter.
Just as they did during the Fukushima- Daiichi nuclear explosion.
Just as they did when an earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Just as they did when an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just as they did when a U.S. Airways plane went down in the Hudson. Just as they did when John Edwards admitted having fathered a child with his mistress.
I could go on. But you get the gist.
In fact, if you're keeping score, this wasn't even the biggest news story (measured by traffic) ever to hit the Twitter transom. The bin Laden news resulted in a spike that approached 4,000 tweets-per-second bracketing President Obama's speech officially announcing the news Sunday evening. But that still fell shy of the 6,939 tweets-per-second which ushered in Japan's new year.
gushing about Twitter being first to carry rumors that President Obama would address the nation about an unspecified national security issue.
Actually, the most interesting piece of the story concerns the role played by an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, Pakistan, who happened to be awake during the helicopter raid on bin Laden's compound. Sohaib Athar turned to Twitter to type out a rapid-fire update of the noise in his neighborhood, having no idea what exactly was taking place. It was pure dumb luck that guaranteed Athar (http://twitter.com/#!/ReallyVirtual) a place in history.
The real story is that Twitter is no longer a part of this story - and that's testimony to the fact that it arrived a long time ago. Isn't it about time we grokked that?