The Anatomy of a Tweet

Twitter engineer reveals much more than 140 characters from each "tweet"

By Jackson West
|  Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010  |  Updated 8:38 AM PDT
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If you think you're only revealing a little bit about yourself by sending a single, 140-character message to Twitter, think again.

In fact, all the information that can be gleaned from the post would take up the better part of a standard piece of paper if printed out.

That's thanks to all the metadata -- or data about the data -- that Twitter records and then makes available to third party developers, which Twitter engineer Raffi Krikorian mapped out in a handy graphic.

It includes your profile information, whether or not your account is "verified" or "protected," if the account has multiple contributors, and even where the tweet came from when possible.

The metadata is what helps developers create applications that can, say, tell you what everyone in San Francisco is saying about a particular event.

And there could be more information soon, as Twitter says that it will allow developers to embed their own data, such as links to photo sharing websites or embedded video clips.

So remember, next time you tweet, you might actually be saying a lot more than you intended -- especially if you send it at three in the morning from your secret lover's apartment and your spouse just happens to be handy at parsing code.

Jackson West would also like to point out that this metadata is literally copied and posted to countless third-party servers.

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