The race for 1 million followers on Twitter is on: In one corner is CNN; in the other, Ashton Kutcher.
Just a few weeks ago, no one was close to reaching that benchmark. Now, as users have flocked to the increasingly popular microblogging site, the numbers have grown. And the Hollywood star has used two Bay Area companies to get there: Twitter and Qik, which allows you to video livestream from your cell phone straight to the web.
CNN's breaking news feed is in the lead with more than 937,000 followers as of noon Wednesday. Britney Spears is second, with more than 903,000 followers, while Kutcher has seen his follower count grow to more than 888,000.
The 31-year-old actor recently threw down the gauntlet, challenging CNN and its founder, Ted Turner. In a Web video posted earlier this week, Kutcher said he would ding-dong-ditch Turner's house if he beat CNN to 1 million. (For those unfamiliar with the classic adolescent prank, ding-dong-ditch is when you ring someone's doorbell and run away.) And now he will be on Larry King on Friday night to talk about the challenge.
"I find it astonishing that one person can actually have as big of a voice online as what an entire media company can on Twitter," Kutcher said in a video he posted on qik.com. "I just thought that was kind of an amazing comment on the state of our media."
Kutcher later promised a "Guitar Hero" video game to his millionth follower, before quickly realizing it would be difficult to identify such a person.
In postings on Twitter, Kutcher said he was fielding interview requests, including one from CNN's Larry King. As of Tuesday afternoon, he was mulling the offers and claiming it was a "saga for the Internet," not TV.
Not to be outdone, King posted a video on YouTube boasting the wrath of his company and sounding a lot like Ned Beatty's TV network chairman character in the film "Network."
Said King: "Are you kidding? Do you think you can take on an entire network? Do you know how big we are? Do you know what CNN is? Kutcher, you're playing out of your field. You're in another time zone. This ain't gonna work. CNN will bury you!"
CNN, which is owned by Time Warner Inc., didn't immediately have a comment Wednesday morning. Spokespeople for Twitter didn't return a request for comment.
Both Kutcher and his wife, actress Demi Moore, are popular Twitter users. Kutcher, in particular, is an avid poster of tweets -- messages that must be 140 characters or less.
Earlier this month, Internet traffic analyst comScore reported that monthly unique visitors to the site reached 4 million in February, up more than 1,000 percent from a year ago.
Though its numbers aren't up-to-the-minute, the site http://twitterholic.com ranks the most popular profiles on Twitter.
And if you're wondering who's in fourth, the Twitter feed for Ellen DeGeneres and her talk show, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," is trailing with more than 789,000 followers -- a number large enough to dance about, at least.