Aug. 30, 2011 — -- Hurricane Irene, ongoing drought in Texas, economic worries ... never mind all that. On Sunday night when Beyonce Knowles announced on MTV's Video Music Awards that she was pregnant, her baby bump gave Twitter a bump of its own. By 10:35 p.m., Twitter said people were posting a record 8,868 tweets per second.
Maybe people just needed a break. Maybe they were thrilled for Knowles and her husband, rapper Jay-Z. Maybe they had electricity, something 8 million people didn't have because of the storm, and wanted to go online to flaunt it.
At any rate, they helped spread the news when Knowles confirmed her pregnancy on MTV.
"I want you to feel the love that's growing inside me," she said during her performance.
Of course, the VMAs were a big enough deal on their own. MTV said it had a record 12.4 million total viewers for the awards. But there was a bit of media synergy going on as people tweeted about what they were seeing.
Twitter is now the ninth most visited site worldwide, according to the Web-tracking service Alexa. Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo may get more visitors, but they can't top Twitter for the sheer number of messages sent.
In early July, Twitter said it passed a milestone: Users were sending 200 million tweets per day, up from 2 million in January 2009. If printed on paper, at a rate of 20 tweets per page, the tweets would fill the equivalent of 8,163 copies of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace," the company said.
Despite the flighty name and the forced brevity of the messages, Twitter has become a major, and often serious, medium for spreading news. From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the uprising in Egypt, it has been a way for people to connect, share links to pictures and news stories, or watch what is collectively on the world's mind.
And, of course, it's become the gathering place for the rabid followers of pop culture icons.
Ashton Kutcher won the race to become the first Twitter member to get a million followers, but he's since been surpassed by a few pop stars, a reality TV queen and one commander in chief.
ABC News did a search, and as of this morning, the most-followed figures on Twitter are:
Each of those numbers has risen about 10 percent since early summer. @Beyonce, by the way, had 1,599,708 followers -- without having posted a single tweet.