What Twitter needs

Thoughtful Guardian piece by Charles Arthur.

What Twitter needs is to expand its capacity while making money from those who are using it. True, it has just received $15m (£7.5m) of venture capital funding, valuing it at $80m. But it needs to deter some people from using it – while benefiting from those who continue to.

There are two obvious ways forward. Charge the users, or charge those who want to get at the users. The first option is fine – if it wants to lose 90% of its user base (the rough tradeoff any service sees if it begins charging, however little). The second option might look puzzling, but it has worked before, in the MP3 market.

Once, there were zillions of MP3-playing software programs. Then Fraunhofer, which owns the patents, decided to charge for their use. At a stroke, the number of MP3 encoder/decoders shrank – leaving only those companies able to pay for them.

Twitter could do the same: charge for access to its API, or throttle requests over a certain limit from non-paying sources. True, its architecture challenges would remain – but with money coming in, it would have the incentive to get it right. And in the end, what do you want: a Twitter that’s free, or a Twitter that works?

My answer: one that works.