The Hudson River Twitpic

Citizen journalism breakthrough

On 15 January 2009, Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger landed a U.S. Airways plane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers. A ferry came to the rescue and one of its passengers, Janis Krums, captured the moment and posted it to Twitter. The image went viral and triggered a shift in the power of citizen journalism.

Mapping the Miracle Crash Site

by Antonio Brandimarte


Mixed media on metal mesh: tempera on canvas, ink linoleum prints on printed paper, pencil and ink on cotton paper, ropes, zip ties, white enamel 

“The metal mesh is the representation of the Internet and of the way we view and move in the current digital space. Everything is connected, catalogued and indexed in a map without borders, a representation of reality.”

Antonio is an Italian artist interested in the exploration of maps as a way to reflect on the theme of borders.

Breakthrough citizen journalism

An iconic photograph that became the most viewed Twitpic ever had clear implications for news organisations. And for Twitter, “It changed everything,” Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey told CNBC in 2013. “Suddenly the world turned its attention because we were the source of news—and it wasn’t us, it was this person in the boat using the service, which is even more amazing.”

What about Twitpic? Back in the early days of Twitter there was a much bigger ecosystem of apps and sites that extended the functionality of the service. It’s hard to remember when you could not embed media inside a tweet, but in 2009, photos on Twitter relied on 3rd party services. Twitpic eventually closed down in 2014 after getting into a trademark dispute with Twitter.

What else happened in 2009?

Twitter gains traction

Ashton Kutcher challenges CNN to a Twitter popularity contest as they race to be the first account with a million followers. Kutcher wins.

‘Unfriend’ named Word of The Year

‘Hashtag’ and ‘sexting’ also enter the Oxford English Dictionary.

Twitter mourns MJ

Michael Jackson dies, and while the press pauses for confirmation, reports spread on Twitter, proving its power as a news-breaking service.

Susan Boyle watched worldwide

The Scottish singer rises to fame on The X Factor. She becomes the most-watched video on YouTube in the UK that year.