Twitter Denies Definite Limits On Following

Only targeting "follow spam"

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It’s probably not a safe assumption that there’s a limit on the number of people one can actually follow on Twitter. After all, it’s possible someone has no life to prevent them being able to monitor a stream of thousands. Hey, if people actually camped out or bought scalped tickets to see "The Dark Knight" instead of just waiting 12 hours, then it’s possible to justify almost anything.

It’s sort of requirement, for example, that Robert Scoble follow 21,000 people. This is his gig. Personally, I follow 237 people very poorly. I’m fond of a few of them, but wouldn’t notice if many of them disappeared off the face of the Earth, and have no interest in building up a huge list of people to follow. This is generally how I am in real life, too. If in the real world you’re a Calacanis, tweeting incessantly and saying nothing, then you’ll be unfollowed quicker than I can start my car and drive away.

I’ve got things to do.

But with something like Twitter, it’s not about managing the personality quirks and relative gregariousness of one person. It’s about managing all types in the fairest of ways as well as Twitter spam. Bloggers this morning nonetheless were miffed at new restrictions put on the number of people one can follow.

The current follow threshold appears to be 2,000, as Brent Csutoras and others (some of whom also have multiple accounts) are discovering. There was a brief ballyhoo over the assumptions Twitter was limiting the number of people that can follow a particular account. That’s since been cleared up by Twitter founders.

Twitter instated the limit to combat Twitter spam and insists there is no actual limit to the number of people a person can actually follow, just a limit to the number of people a person can follow in a certain time period, and that limit is directly proportionate to the number of people a person has following them, among some other factors undisclosed for the same reason Google doesn’t disclose many of its own parameters.

Say, for example, someone (or somebot) sets up a Twitter account, amasses a list of thousands to follow but only has five or so following them. That’s a spam red flag. Twitter founder Biz Stone mentioned the possibility of following limits back when we had the temporary "I’ve lost my sheep" crisis. Due to targeting "aggressive followers," some accounts lost up to 75 percent of their followers.

In another Twitter blog post nobody seemed to notice from last Thursday, Stone described the ongoing effort to fight what he now termed "follow spam":

there is no perfect formula. We do our best by taking a multi-dimensional approach. We look at a number of factors—including how many people are following you back—before applying limits. We don’t reveal exact limits, because it’s somewhat complicated and, more importantly, if you were to tell spammers exactly what the filtering rules are on your email or, say, Google’s PageRank, they’d just engineer their way around them much more easily.

So, there you go. No official limits, no magic number. Other observers have noted that aggressive action against spammers is not only important to general user base, but also in peripheral efforts to keep Twitter online as it attempts to scale.

Even others have been so bold as to suggest a new business model, which involves offering premium Twitter accounts with higher follow limits. This suggestion wasn’t so far off the mark as associates had mentioned charging for commercial Twitter accounts. The problem of determining commercial versus consumer, though, might prove challenging. 



Twitter Denies Definite Limits On Following
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