USAID: Our Cuban Twitter Clone Was More Popular Than Reported

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Consider this my favorite correction in recent memory: USAID, fine purveyors of a Twitter clone called ZunZuneo in Cuba, would like you to know that it was more popular than reported. The project, widely ridiculed such as it was, was said to have peaked at around 40,000 users. Not so, according to USAID.

In a blog post today, the U.S. Agency for International Development indicated that the “platform had around 68,000 users.” ZunZuneo is one of the zanier government projects I can summon to mind: Culture change by cloned tweet. You cannot improve on the story of the service. It’s tech gold. Here’s TechCrunch from when the program was uncovered:

Eventually, the program grew beyond what the government contractors felt they could control, and they realized they needed to exit their involvement to in order to conceal their role. At one point, the USAID even went to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey to seek funding for ZunZuneo, which was part of a plan for it to go independent and become a legitimate business, with the proviso that new management keep its original ambitions for inspiring political change.

Right. ZunZuneo was shutdown in 2012. Twitter has found out how to make money, but it would appear the costs of running ZunZuneo were too much for the United States to bear. Relations, always rocky between Cuba and the United States, are not likely to improve due to the situation.

Still, ZunZuneo hit its stride and managed to attract a user base. According to USAID: “The project initially sent news, sports scores, weather, and trivia. After which, the grantee did not direct content because users were generating it on their own.” The government: Better at apps than half of Silicon Valley.

IMAGE BY FLICKR USER Josef Williams UNDER CC BY-ND 2.0 LICENSE