Every year, Time ignites a spirited conversation with its list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Lists like these are meant to be provocative, not authoritative. They are representative, dividing their selections into groups like “leaders and revolutionaries,” “builders and titans” and “scientists and thinkers.”
In that sense, the editors are trying to hold up a mirror to the prevailing trends of the day, affording themselves the flexibility to include athletes alongside politicians, actors next to scientists.
So if it’s an exercise in zeitgeist, it’s only fitting that the Twitter co-founders, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, made this year’s list. After all, last year Time recognized Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Digg’s Jay Adelson and TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington made it last year. In 2007, YouTube’s Chad Hurley and Steve Chen made the list. See a pattern?
In the past year, what Internet trend has garnered more hype than Twitter? The meteoric growth of the microblogging service and the almost unreal media fascination that has accompanied it have left some of us convinced that this is a communications revolution of historic proportion, and others of us scratching our heads trying to understand why and how it became so popular.
Is Twitter a fad, or is the 140-characters-or-fewer format really the future of human interaction?
Equally interesting as the choices for the Time 100 list are the people who write the tributes. This year, Craig Newmark raises a glass to toast Zipcars co-founder Robin Chase, amd Rick Astley praises 4chan.org founder moot (yep, he made the list!).
So who more appropriate to sing the praises of Twitter than Ashton Kutcher? After beating CNN in the race to 1 million followers on the site, the actor/budding Internet entrepreneur has emerged as one of the most exuberant and visible evangelists for the site.
Lest you think it over the top to talk of Kutcher’s fervor for Twitter in religious terms, consider the first graph of his tribute to Stone and Williams:
“Years from now, when historians reflect on the time we are currently living in, the names Biz Stone and Evan Williams will be referenced side by side with the likes of Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Guglielmo Marconi, Philo Farnsworth, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs — because the creation of Twitter by Stone, 35, Williams, 37, and Jack Dorsey, 32, is as significant and paradigm-shifting as the invention of Morse code, the telephone, radio, television or the personal computer.”