I feel sorry for Twitter founder Ev Williams. The self-appointed A-listers who've flocked to his service are building an echo chamber worse than the blogosphere circa 1999. Today's pretend crisis: Williams has set an arbitrary limit that allows most Twitter users to follow no more than 2,000 other users' updates. The hip response is to claim that of course you need way more than that. But seriously, why would anyone try to follow 3,000 Twits? I've summarized Williams's lengthy post explaining the "follow spam" problem. He left out the part where it costs you money:"Follow spam" is what happens when a Twitter user sets up an automated script to subscribe to thousands of individual users' feeds, found by crawling Twitter's pages. Follow-spammers aren't interested in reading all those people's updates. They're actually hoping their new pretend-friends will follow them back in exchange, creating an opt-in list for their messages. These may be marketing, or just personal drama. It seems like a victimless crime, but there are two problems caused by comment spam:
- 1. Each user gets a notice whenever a comment spammer starts following them. If you're getting Twitter on your cellphone, it means frequent interruption by annoying "TotalStranger is now following you on Twitter" text messages. If you don't have an unlimited messaging plan, the messages cost you as much as 15 cents each.
- 2. Williams's servers are already overloaded. "In extreme cases," he writes, "these automated accounts have followed so many people they've threatened the performance of the entire system."