Twitter, in a post on its blog, has acknowledged that it’s been having problems. It attributes some (not all) of them to so-called “popular” users that it says overloaded the system when they sent updates in too quick a succession. In other words, it was a tactical acknowledgment by the company of problems that have already been widely reported.
Of course Twitter’s most popular user is Robert Scoble, and as far as numerous successive posts have argued, he is the real source of the problem (prompting some not-unexpected foot-stomping on Scoble’s part).
I wrote about Twitter’s problem in a post last weekend and how they should charge for people like Scoble, Michael Arrington and myself for using their system so aggressively. Our use of Twitter benefits our businesses. Links to Scoble’s posts can drive traffic to his site or his videos, which in turn drives attention to his work and his employer. Same holds true for Michael and for me. On a more philosophical basis, it allows us to stay in touch with our readers, who in turn keep us in business.
Nevertheless, since common sense and paid services are apparently not part of this brave new Web 2.0 world, my idea didn’t play well. What was I thinking? Instead there’s this belief that Twitter, the ultimate tool of our collective narcissism, should be so lucky to have super users, that they are what make it popular with everybody else. I don’t subscribe to that point of view, but hey that’s just me.
For Twitter, the challenge of keeping the service going while at the same time fixing it to scale up is immense. Thankfully they have the money and what looks like the will to fix the problems. Will they? We shall see!
Update: The debate about Twitter rages on. Scoble met with Twitter team and talked about the various issues in a video interview. I got an email from Even Williams who is one of the founders of Twitter and this is what he had to stay:
We like the idea of charging for commercial use. That’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time (you can probably find my quoted saying that from a year ago). We’re just not there yet.
Given all different opinions, and other issues that have emerged, I have to reiterate that by charging the super users, I am suggesting that costs will bring in a sense of responsibility to the entire ecosystem. When there is no tax involved, there is no cost to having thousands of followers, or sending hundreds of messages. When asked to pay, heavier users will use the system responsibly.