Blog Post

Ev Williams: Twitter Not Limiting Followers

Updated with comments from Twitter: Dave Winer points to a series of discussions and blog posts about Twitter allegedly limiting people to 2,000 followers. In his opinion, it is a good idea, because “the expensive thing in Twitter is distributing status messages to large numbers of queues.” Actually, Twitter isn’t doing anything formal. Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter, left a comment in response to an earlier version of a post that explains it all.

I’m afraid this has gotten confused. There is no limit to the number of followers you can have. There is a limit to the number of people you can *follow*. This is mostly to reduce spam and depends on a number of factors. More details here: (link)

In other words, there are no such limits. Earlier reports were based There is no official word from Twitter, and all on a couple of blog posts and status messages, where people reported that they were running into the 2,000 follower problem.

On their web site, the only limits Twitter talks about are: 1,000 total updates a day, 250, direct messages per day, and 100 API requests. If the San Francisco-based company is indeed going in this direction, it wouldn’t be as hard to see them adopting a fremium model. A post on Statisfaction forums indicates that the follow limits are more recent and were prompted by the nefarious Twitter-spammers, but there are some on the Twitter forum who are unhappy about any kind of limits.

In my blog post from May 2008 about their infrastructure problems, and how they can deal with it, I had suggested that they should limit the followers, charge for additional followers and messages.

$10 a month for 1,000 subscribers. 25,000 subscribers means someone like Scoble should be paying them around $250 a month. Let’s take it a step further. Twitter should limit people to 500 free messages a month. Any more should come in a bucket of, say, 1,000 messages for $10…. This would also fit the Freemium business model that Twitter investor Fred Wilson so loves.

Anyway, that post got mixed reactions. Some agreed and others didn’t much care for my proposed pricing structure. Regardless, if Too bad this rumor is not true, then this is a step in the right direction for the company as it helps them get a handle on their infrastructure and scaling issues.

36 Responses to “Ev Williams: Twitter Not Limiting Followers”

  1. The biggest problem and Bug Twitter currently has are:

    1) Hundreds of Thousands of Twitter members who are unable to follow even those who are following them and are well under limit and ratio

    2) Thousands of Twitter members suspended without any fault of there’s OR due to some stupid Third party untrusted app they signed up for.

    This is becoming the biggest problem on Twitter worldwide!

  2. TwitterOnTheRun is an automated self-sustaining TWITTER program that follows Tweeters who are interested in what you are interested in on TWITTER. You tell the program which Tweeters are already talking about what you are about, and it follows for you just like the specified Tweeter follows. When you follow Tweeters who have common interests with you on TWITTER, they are highly likely to follow you back. Then you can get your message out to all of them with one simple tweet or more tweets, if you choose!

  3. I think there needs to be a free component so that EVERYONE will want to use it. Otherwise, a lot of people will opt out all together. Perhaps 500 following limit or something for a free account. Possibly even limit the # of followers for a free account. Once people sign up for free, they will see the value in paying $5 to $10 per month to expand their account. This will certainly end the SPAM issue. Not many spammers are going to cough up real cash only to have their accounts deleted when they start spamming.

    The idea that it should be totally free is beyond my thought process. We have been given a luxury from the folks at Twitter for far too long. At some point, they have to make some money from something. It isn’t fair to them to expect that they are going to keep this great service up and running for free forever. Whether the money they receive is in the form of subscriber fees or advertising – they have to be compensated eventually.

  4. There is nothing wrong with limiting follows unmatched by followers after, say, the first 100 or 200 to let new members follow enough people to have an opportunity to get followed back by enough people to build a social group upon.

    I have said it elsewhere and I will say it again – all this talk of $10 per month or so many $s per number of follows is a nonsense! Most people would simply abandon Twitter and walk away, leaving just commercial entities who wouldn’t see any point in paying to be where the public aren’t! At $1 per month or $10 per year in advance to be a membe, most of us could and would afford it and pay willingly, regardless of numbers in our follower/folllowing groups.This represents an enormous amount of money across the Twitter population. If Twitter wanted to charge commercial clients an additional amount and give them some extra goodies, so be it, but imposing advertising on people’s pages without their say-so would be a good way to empty twitter of a significant number of people, I think.

    I would have paid $1 a month or $10 for a year (say after a free 30-day trial) of Twitter with great pleasure, even though there were very few people following me at that point. Why do people always talk about charging the sort of money that people have to think twice about instead of asking for a negligible fee on the basis that sheer numbers will make that a very desirable income for the website owners without putting off potential clients?

    Business people need to learn how to think like non-business people if they are ever to figure out how to get their custom! That’s my 2 cents-worth (if it’s even worth that much! LOL) and thanks for a thought-provoking article :-)

  5. Limiting Followers would be insane and irrational. Limiting following is simply stupid (a knee-jerk reaction to so-called “spam”).

    People have followers because they are interesting. They follow because they want to. There are other ways to remove grafittists without limiting people’s ability to use twitter.

  6. Biz Stone just confirmed with a tweet that there is no limit to the number of followers you can have, “folks, you can have as many followers as you want—there is no limit on your Twitter popularity potential”

  7. Indeed, it doesn’t sound much like a business model.

    It sounds like spam prevention. Twitter seems to be getting pretty hammered by spammers. That’s not only annoying to users, but creates load with is a big problem for Twitter.

    If Twitter’s spam problem grows it will clearly die. I can’t see people tolerating spam on a closed service like that. Especially with alternatives lined up to steal their thunder.

  8. Doesn’t really sound like a business model, more like spammers damage control.
    How many 250$/mo Scobles are there? Didn’t Scoble do more to promote Twitter than to crush the service? Isn’t stopping him from moving to other services worth more than 250$/mo?
    Such a model might work for commercial companies, “featured” users / messages etc.
    They will probably lift this limit for real bloggers if it is technically possible.

  9. One of the Femium style biz strategies is they way that:

    1 – everything is always in beta – as a way to shrug off support responsibilities – and not taking responsibility for meeting deadlines.

    2 – when the service takes off – as twitter has – and then changing the rules when it’s too late for users to manage their growth.

    I don’t mind paying. I’m more bummed by the dreadful server problems and the lack of honest information about what’s going on when they lose tons of data about your followers!

    Rick Butts

  10. One of the arguments for going with a model like this is for Twitter to become somewhat economically viable. As a commercial venture, Twitter has been sucking money for its infrastructure but hasn’t put in any user-based funds. This would not only allow the company to potentially make some money but would leave it with no excuse for its infrastructure woes. One thing that I believe Twitter should not do is to charge people for following others. That is, if I want to follow 10000 people, I should be allowed to do so. Popularity is a price; loneliness, on the other hand, is not.

  11. Wait, are they proposing to limit the amount of people you follow or how many follow you? If they’re proposing to limit the amount of people you follow, I’m all for that, as long as it’s not less than about a 1000.
    On the other-hand, I’m totally against limiting the amount of followers you have. Low-budget projects like Dr. Horrible would have never manifested on Twitter if they were limited in the number of people that are allowed to follow.

  12. I forgot to include in my post the question about TwitterFeeds like CNN, The Consumerist, etc. They might as well go back to the newsletter system through email – at least they don’t have to pay for that.

  13. I’ve been working on an idea for “channels” through Twitter where local, niche, or mass conversation could take place on a single Twitter account, kind of like a group system. It would facilitate common interest conversations, live group-reporting on events, etc. If these limits were to take effect and include paying for more than a certain amount of followers, it could seriously limit the idea since it would hinge on allowing as many people as want the information, to have access to it.