Can Twitter users link out?

Well, blow me down! No sooner do I publish a column about suspicions that Facebook was de-linking incoming tweets before converting them into status updates than I find this post by Dave Winer.

I have several accounts that I use for testing Twitter apps. One of them, bullmancuso, was shut down last October. A few weeks ago I petitioned to have the account restored.

This evening I got an email from the Twitter support person BFF, who explained:

“Your account was suspended because our specialists found that your tweets were primarily links to other sites and not personal updates, a violation of Twitter Rules.”

It’s true of that account but it’s also true of the NYTimes and many other news oriented Twitter sites.

I suggest they take another look at this.

And it’s a reminder once again that we’re playing in someone else’s ballpark here, and they make the rules. This is not in any way like the Internet.

Yep. Most of the people I follow on Twitter use the service in much the same way. A proportion of their tweets are, of course, ‘personal’ updates. But an awful lot of them are pointers to interesting stuff. For us, Twitter has become a kind of selective RSS feed — and that’s its main attraction. If Twitter declares that use illegal, then we’ll just move on.

Also, Dave is right to point out that this kind of behaviour runs directly counter to the spirit of the Internet — which is a technology that is entirely agnostic about the uses to which it is put. That’s a feature of the system, not a bug: it’s what was designed into the architecture of the network. It’s part of its DNA. If the guys who run Twitter want it to enjoy the same kind of organic growth as the Net and the Web had, then they had better learn the same kind of agnosticism. Otherwise they’re screwed.

There’s another interesting aspect to this also. At the Society of Editors Conference last weekend it was noticeable that almost every ‘innovative’ use of online media by existing newspaper groups is now either built around Twitter or assumes that the service will continue more or less as it is now. If anyone’s betting the ranch on that, then they should think again.