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Friday, May 22, 2009

Six things that could ruin Twitter

From Computerworld
By Mike Elgan


The six things that could ruin Twitter

1. Buying friends. CNN announced yesterday that it had acquired @CNNBrk, a Twitter feed that serves up links to CNN breaking news stories. Now that people are rewarded for selling followers, an entire underground economy will probably emerge. Perps will use dirty tricks to build a large number of followers, then sell those accounts to big corporations. The end result will be a large number of accounts that suddenly turn into sources of Twitter spam, and a large number of users who feel they've been tricked.

2. Username squatting. When I started following @CNNBrk, I thought I was following CNN itself. I didn't learn until yesterday that it was just some dude who grabbed the CNNBrk name, copied the CNN logo and served up links to CNN content. CNN's acquisition of @CNNBrk showed everyone that username squatting on Twitter pays. Expect to see millions of people signing up using trademarked IP, hoping to cash in later.

3. Forgetting to grow a business model. The trouble with not making money is that Twitter won't be able to keep up with demand. Which means more fail whales, slowdowns and problems. (The fail whale is a picture that's displayed on Twitter when the system breaks, usually because of excess activity.)

4. Invasive advertising. Ads on Twitter would be OK. Paying to not see ads would be OK, too. But ads that cover the screen or otherwise delay posts could harm Twitter badly. Twitter is about speed and brevity. Big ads that are fine elsewhere won't work on Twitter.

5. Spam. The good news about Twitter is that everything is instantly searchable. The bad news is that everything is instantly searchable. Stories abound about a user whining about some product only to receive a quick e-mail from the company they complained about.

Companies are using Twitter's great search tools to find out in real time what people are saying about them. This could all be further automated. I'd hate to see an entire ecosystem forming around the triggering of spam to your e-mail in-box every time you tweet something. This spam could also be used as a form of "punishment" that stifles criticism. Another form of spam is unwanted ads sent as direct messages. Once this is automated, our direct-message in-boxes could be filling up with garbage. Spam ruined e-mail, and it could ruin Twitter.

6. Bugs and viruses. Twitter allows links, and links could send you to the same kind of sites and trigger the same kinds of downloads that initiate the downloading of Trojan horses onto your system. Twitter needs to stay on top of this before it becomes an industry.


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