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This article was published on September 2, 2011

Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley may have invented Twitter before Twitter became Twitter

Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley may have invented Twitter before Twitter became Twitter

Ok. That’s a slight exaggeration but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

In the earliest days of social media, users relied on some of the most obscure methods to broadcast news to their friends. Or at least, that’s what Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley said in an interview with Kevin Rose.

Crowley, looking back on simpler days, recalls recognizing the trend in cellphone usage where users would shoot text messages to their friends to alert them to where they were headed or where they were located.

Early Foursquare users had to go through a series of complicated tasks that combined cellphone text messaging and email just to ping groups of friends. Crowley calls this a “nice little hack” from back in the day, where sending a text message to a pre-programmed email address would relay your location content to the appropriate users.

After this, their database would struggle to determine which location you were actually referring to, then communicate that to your friends. Crowley believes that this simple hack was one of the first of its kind to illustrate “presence” through mobile devices.

In this sense, angel investor Kevin Rose equates that type of broadcasting to the way we are now able to do the same on Twitter, letting our friends know where we are through a quick ping in the system. In fact, in earlier Foursquare days, you had to use the “@” sign before a venue name to “check in” (similar to Twitter’s execution of the @ symbol before a username to designate who you are speaking to), where an exclamation point before your message represented a “shout”.

Conversation follows. Check it out. Twitter convo starts around 8.30 in.

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