In a short span of time, Twitter has gone from a brand-new idea to a worldwide phenomenon. From Iranian revolutionaries to mourners of Michael Jackson, it seems like everyone has a Twitter account these days. Websites, celebrities, politicians, industry insiders, and normal people alike have fallen in love with the idea of Twitter.
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Big corporations have also started to discover Twitter. They use it for advertising, customer feedback, market research, and even to leak new information about products. Corporate use will probably end up playing a big role in whether or not Twitter becomes profitable in the near future. That means they've got to pander to the big businesses that use their product, even when they start making ridiculous demands.
Basically, a bunch of people are angry at Twitter for the proliferation of spam on their site. Despite the @spam account that users can send spam reports to, there are still plenty of spammers out there. When one is banned, another just steps in to take its place. Some of these spammers are advertising on behalf of escort services or pornography, which is what's really gotten people up in arms. Some companies are even threatening to pull out of Twitter if they don't clean things up.
But does Twitter really have any power to kill spam on their site? Sadly, I think the answer is a big, resounding 'no'. Anytime you're offering a free social service online you're going to have to deal with the dregs of the Internet rising up to ruin things for everyone else. Spammers do what they do because they are getting paid to do it. They aren't going to be dissuaded by a ban, nor are they going to stop just because Twitter asks them to.
The only way I could see Twitter actually having a substantial impact on their spam problem would be by requiring a registration fee of some sort. It wouldn't have to be a regular subscription; the Something Awful forums have proved that a one-time $10 fee can go a long way towards discouraging spam. Of course, charging anything at all would still cut Twitter's user base by a substantial number.
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How Twitter will try to solve this problem is anyone's guess. I hope they decide to start charging, myself. Spam aside, I don't see anyway they can stay afloat if they don't. Eventually their financiers are going to want to see an actual profit.