Maturing Twitter evolves its terms of service

Twitter likely looking to ad-based revenue, reveals other details through updated terms

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
September 11, 2009
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twitterTwitter updated four main aspects of its terms of service yesterday—advertising, tweet ownership, API policy, and spam policy—and made the changes public on its blog.

Advertising—In the Terms, we leave the door open for advertising. We'd like to keep our options open as we've said before.

When one person in a relationship says to the other, “I want to keep my options open,” doesn’t that mean that they’ve already got somebody in mind and, perhaps, may already be seeing them? Regardless, this sounds a lot like Twitter is at least starting to seriously explore revenue options via advertising. They are still garnering a high amount of buzz, so it’s probably high time they start demonstrating how they’re going to implement a business model.

Ownership—Twitter is allowed to "use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute" your tweets because that's what we do. However, they are your tweets and they belong to you.

Usually when something belongs to me, you have to ask me to use it. Still, this is pretty standard fare for many Web sites that store user content. Facebook already reads content on profile pages and news feeds to personalize the ads on its site, much in the same way that Google ads are influenced by a user’s search query.

APIs—The apps that have grown around the Twitter platform are flourishing and adding value to the ecosystem. You authorize us to make content available via our APIs. We're also working on guidelines for use of the API.

This is kind of redundant after the previous point. Twitter seems to be really happy with all the various computer programs and mobile applications that take full advantage of the Twitter API, as they provide more outlets for the site’s content. We shouldn’t see this changing anytime soon.

SPAM—Abusive behavior and spam is also outlined in these terms according to the rules we've been operating under for some time.

Though this might seem trivial, Twitter’s effectiveness in defeating spam as the site’s popularity grows will be essential in ensuring that users continue to find the site useful and interesting, and not just a breeding ground for self-promoting spammers. Personally, I’d like Twitter to address the abuse of the trending system, where spammers merely include all the top trending topics in their post to get the highest visibility. It’s in Twitter’s best interest.

Of all these updates, it’s clear that the advertising model will be the most interesting to see implemented. Again, it’s pretty clear that Twitter already has its mind set on introducing some sort of ad-based revenue collector. We’ll just have to wait to see the details on their plan.

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