- Ryan Corazza
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When the last World Cup kicked off in June 2006, Twitter had yet to launch to the public. Facebook didn't open up to everyone older than 13 with a valid e-mail address until September of that year. YouTube was alive and kicking, but if you wanted to participate in some chatter about the World Cup in real time, a live blog was about your best, and oftentimes only, bet.
But four years later, society finds itself in a very different place, and Twitter is expected to be a digital melting pot of commentary during this year's World Cup.
"A lot of people in the U.S. don't realize how huge the World Cup truly is -- and how totally border-busting it is," Robin Sloan, who works for Twitter on media partnerships, said in an e-mail interview earlier this week. "There's no other human event that's the focal point for so many people at the same time -- and any time that happens, it gets reflected on Twitter.
"Right now, more than 60 percent of registered Twitter accounts are outside the U.S., and we're seeing huge growth around the world. So I think the World Cup is actually going to help demonstrate how truly international Twitter already is -- with people tweeting in many different languages, from phones and via SMS, and even from within the stadiums in South Africa."
And with the world's eyes tuned to one event that spans an entire month, this year's World Cup could very well be about the biggest thing a relatively young medium such as social media has ever seen.
There's already some evidence to support that. Nike's "Write the Future" ad starring Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo set the record for most viral video views in a debut week at 7.8 million late last month, according to Ad Age.
And in anticipation of the event, World Cup Web search traffic has been on the rise for about the past two weeks.
So in this spirit, here are some pockets of the Web, social media and mobile world to check in on come June 11.
Distracting or connecting?
England and Spain may have banned their players from using Twitter, Facebook and other social networks during the tournament -- citing such usage as a "distraction" -- but plenty of other players will be tweeting during their time in South Africa. The U.S. team sports Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Stuart Holden, Jonathan Bornstein, Brad Guzan, Edson Buddle, DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu, Herculez Gomez and Oguchi Onyewu on Twitter.
Internationally, here's a list of footballers to track on Twitter, via Twitter-Athletes: Gilberto Silva, Grafite, Juliano Belletti, Kaka and Luis Fabiano of Brazil; Andres Guardado, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Guillermo Ochoa and Luis Ernesto Michel of Mexico; Ben Sigmund of New Zealand; Diego Forlan of Uruguay; Giorgio Chiellini of Italy; Nicolas Anelka of France; Humberto Suazo of Chile; and Eljero Elia, Gregory van der Wiel and Ryan Babel of the Netherlands.
You'll need to use your translator of choice for some of these guys, of course.
A few others things to keep an eye on: FIFA's World Cup Twitter account; U.S. Soccer's Twitter account; and a World Cup 2010 Facebook page. Visa has rolled out a Match Planner app for Facebook that allows you to schedule reminders for matches and plan parties, while Coca-Cola is imploring fans to upload their own goal celebrations for a chance to win prizes.
We've seen live mobile video coverage of games during March Madness this year. MLB's At Bat app offers live video of ballgames as well. So it would follow suit that the World Cup will be featuring such a service for fans.
Stateside, ESPN Mobile will be leading the charge, as it's offering all 64 matches of the event live on several mobile platforms across the country: AT&T Mobile TV, FLO TV, MobiTV, Sprint TV and Verizon VCAST platforms. ESPN3.com will broadcast the games live as well, and is anticipating record-breaking numbers for viewership, as several games will be on during the afternoon in U.S. time zones.
Just don't tell your boss you're watching from your cubicle's computer.
ESPN is also offering a 2010 FIFA World Cup app. For $7.99, fans can access live audio, live commentary, breaking news alerts, news by team alerts, in-game video highlights and live play-by-play. Fans will also be able to share favorite teams and stories to Twitter and Facebook.
Between mobile video and mobile social media updates, England's cell phone providers are even worried about networks becoming oversaturated with data usage.
That's almost a world of information to digest (and seemingly more outside of what I've mentioned), but the main takeaway is this: There's an unprecedented amount of ways to plug into the World Cup this summer via the Web, social media and mobile platforms.
But Twitter is arguably still the simplest and quickest way to see the pulse of each others' minds and connect with each other as life unfolds before our very eyes.
And the World Cup is a global event.
So during the games, don't hesitate to check in on the #WC2010 hashtag, which seems to be the dominant one heading into the event.
You'll be able to see real-time thoughts, news, analysis and conversation about an event the human race is watching and reacting to from all corners of the globe. And you can keep up with it from just about anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection.
Powerful stuff, indeed.
Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.
Soon the globe will be all atwitter about the World Cup and Twitter, Facebook and other social media will busily bring you the buzz.