The buzz surrounding Twitter definitely sparked my curiosity and I decided to check it out for myself. So what exactly is Twitter? Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to blog as well as answer the question “What are you doing?” by sending short text messages called “tweets” to friends, co-workers, family or anyone who is a “follower” on the site. You can send updates through the website directly, through your mobile phone, or via a third party application such as Twirl, Snitter, or the Twitterfox add-on for Firefox, and by the way, it is all free.

You can literally tweet about anything from the cup of coffee you had this morning to the movie you watched last night. The idea behind it is that you can exchange informal information in a quick way without the fatigue of checking numerous emails and IMs. That way close ones can know what is going on in your life they might otherwise be missing out on.

However, Twitter is not just for friends and co-workers anymore. It’s become a great news source including what people think about Obama, TV shows, events, and anything that is on their minds. Even Madonna uses the site to ask fans which of her songs she should add to her “Best of” CD. Many businesses are using tweets to their advantage by searching for a particular brand or topic and finding free honest opinions from consumers. Companies from CNN to numerous tech-blogs are sending out instant updates to share with their followers. People can also tweet about things that their companies are doing and get immediate feedback and opinions. As Twitter users say, if you can’t say it in 140 characters or less, your idea won’t get out there.

Surgeons at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital use Twitter while operating on patients to teach students in an interactive way. It’s not as dangerous as it sounds! There are numerous people working during the surgery so the surgeons themselves aren’t typing and operating at the same time. They broadcast their findings before, during, and after the surgery to other doctors and students as a way to transmit medical findings instantly to a wide audience. An NYU student developed a pregnancy belt, which his wife wore to notify him whenever the baby kicked via a Twitter text message to his phone. It seems that the possibilities are endless if you have the right imagination!

A growing number of people nowadays don’t want to use the web for private conversations but instead are making them public. Virtually 90 percent of Twitter users make their updates public so everyone can read them and communicate with one another in an open way, like birds. Founder and co-founder Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams used this philosophy when creating the name Twitter. They say it is like the sound a bird makes when they converge with others. So when you hear a chirp on your phone and look down to see what your friends are doing, you can move as one with them.