Today, I just heard that Twitter appears to be imposing per hour Tweet limits of 50 per hour per account, even though the API limit is 100 per hour. (If you have less than 100 followers, I gather you are classified as a “small” account and only get 20 per hour.) If you exceed your 50 or 20 per hour limit, you get placed in the equivalent of TwitterLimbo, unable to send through any new Tweets for at least two hours.
Okay, I get that there are a fair number of Twitter spammers out there (although I’ve been blessed to encounter relatively few true spam messages through Twitter). I also know that Twitter gets overloaded from time to time and goes down because too many people are sending too many messages all at once. So I understand, in principle, the TwitterGods desire to prevent such problems by tamping down on the number of Tweets that come through on an hourly basis.
The problem is that such limitations, while they may reduce annoyances and downtime, fail to recognize Twitter for what it is–or at least, what it has become. I’m not sure the creators of Twitter fully appreciated what they were creating when they invented it. If you read their introduction to Twitter on the login page, it says:
Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?
Oh Twitter, how little thou know thyself!
Those who don’t Twitter or who only use the function sporadically might be forgiven for believing this, and I know for a fact that my husband doesn’t “get” Twitter because he doesn’t understand how much more it is. And I have to admit, I resisted joining for months because I couldn’t figure out why it would be better than chatting with my buds in Yahoo IM.
Honestly, it didn’t take me more than a week to understand. Twitter’s power is in the end user’s ability to follow and interact with a network of people who share common interests in something very close to real time (especially if you use an API like TweetDeck which updates the feed automatically). True, you’re limited to 140 characters, but it’s amazing how complex a conversation you can carry on with a dozen or more people at once despite having to keep your statements brief and pithy. I’ve learned so much from my Twitter network in the month or so since I’ve joined, and have (I like to think) made many new friendships as well as strengthened existing ones.
So, given that I think the entire purpose of Twitter is to let people talk to each other and create new social networks by doing so, it’s obvious why I think limiting how much people can talk is counter to the very soul of what makes Twitter so much fun and so successful.
But it gets worse. Because I think that one of the reasons the TwitterGods are clamping down and creating limits is because Twitter is getting too big for its own infrastructure. And one of the reasons it’s getting too big is that there is so much media “buzz” around Twitter. I keep hearing in the news about Twitter. About how all companies will eventually “have to” join Twitter to market their products and respond to negative marketing news that comes through the Twitterverse (#amazonfail, anyone)? In the past two weeks, I can think of dozens of references to Twitter and its “power” as a corporate tool (including at least one report in which someone said GM should Twitter to help it recover from bankruptcy).
Okay, media, guess what? I don’t follow companies on Twitter. I don’t want to follow companies. I follow people. And if corporate marketing becomes the primary focus of Twitter, I’m out.
So please, for the love of all that is holy and Twitterific, restore our Tweet limits to their original, glorious 100 per hour and upgrade whatever you need to in the underlying software to make that work. And remember the prime directive–Twitter isn’t about promotion or marketing or sales; it’s about PEOPLE!