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Internet world welcomes Obama's Oprah to Twitter (update)

April 17, 2009 |  3:58 pm

(UPDATE: See below.)

Oprah Winfrey, one of the nation's most influential women (and a billionaire to boot), is now on Twitter.

The Chicago talk show host and entrepreneur is a bit late to the party, considering a bunch of Congress members have been typing away 140-character messages on their cellphones for months.

President Obama, the first presidential candidate to whom she pledged her public support, used Twitter as a tool for rallying voters.

Just a couple hours after the segment aired on her show today, Winfrey's Twitter name, @oprah, already has more than 174,000 followers,** who will hypothetically receive brief updates about her show, magazine and products in the future.

Perhaps more interestingly, after creating her account Thursday, she amassed more than 35,000 followers by last night -- without any promotion or even a single tweet on the page.

But she still has a ways to go before she catches "That 70's Show" and "Punk'd" star Ashton Kutcher. Today Winfrey interviewed ....

... Kutcher via satellite on her show. Kutcher (@aplusk) and the CNN (@cnnbrk) news network were in a much publicized "race to 1 million followers" on Twitter, which the actor "won" last night.

The winner said they would donate malaria nets to a charity. Winfrey joined in, writing on her Twitter page that she would donate 20,000 nets.

Winfrey got a Twitter crash course on her show from none other than the website's chief executive, Evan Williams. Williams was understandably excited about the appearance -- an endorsement by Winfrey can catapult many products to the top of mainstream consciousness.

"Tomorrow just became a very big day," Williams wrote on his Twitter page Thursday.

Winfrey greeted the world with her first tweet on her show this afternoon. "HI TWITTERS . THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY," she wrote. Phoenix Suns NBA all-star Shaquille O'Neal, one of the nine people Winfrey has added on Twitter, immediately poked fun at her use of all capital letters.

George Stephanopoulos, another member of Winfrey's exclusive Twitter circle, welcomed her to the Internet club on his blog.

Meanwhile, the rest of Twitter is ablaze about the potential of every "soccer mom" starting up a Twitter account. It isn't that far-fetched of an idea. I mean, if Sen. John McCain can figure out how to tweet -- and discuss it on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," as he did earlier this week -- just about anybody can.

(UPDATE: **Oprah ended Friday with 247,693 followers and with this Tweet: "good nite tweets. first big day in twitterland. gotta get some shut eye and use the weekend for rebooting.")

-- Mark Milian

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Photo: Associated Press