Confusion Over Twitter Following Limits
Posted on August 12, 2008
Twitter does not limit the number of people that can follow you. Limits have been imposed on the number of people that you can follow. These following limits are not fixed - they are as low as 2,000 for some users but much higher (over 10,000) for other users.
Twitterers including @BarackObama, @JasonCalacanis, @Scobleizer, @chrispirillo, @chrisbrogan and many others follow over 10,000 people. One user, named @oozzl, is following over 160,000 people. The fact that it varies from user to user is confusing but it is apparently intentionally confusing on Twitter's part so that the spammers they are fighting don't know exactly what they are up to. As Twitter writes here there is no magic number. It's unclear whether this strategy will work effectively - as Online Media Cultist notes spammers that find themselves hitting a limit could simply spawn new accounts.
This new limit caused confusion when some blog posts earlier today (and some tweets on Twitter) incorrectly said that Twitter had limited the number of people that can follow you to 2,000. Twitter's Evan Williams had to step in at one point and tweet a correction to a post made by Om Malik. You can see the small blogstorm that erupted over Twitter follow limits here on Techmeme.
A post on TechCrunch asks how many people can a Twitterer seriously keep track of anyway? Loic Le Meur provides some answers in this post. Following a large number of people was a lot more useful before Tweet search engines like Summize (now Twitter search) emerged. Now you can keep up-to-date on a breaking news subject with a quick Summize search. Still, there is advantage to having breaking news come instantly at you if you are in the information business. Following a large number of people means you may be more likely to see the information when it first happens.
David Risley blogs that maybe Twitter could charge users that want to follow more than the limit allows. That's a possibility but Twitter could probably make a lot more money simply by accepting advertising such a featured Twitter section that would appear on everyone's Twitter bar. This would drive traffic to individual Twitter accounts and likely help them obtain followers. Facebook does something similar with its Facebook pages. There's a lot of avenues toward monetization that Twitter could take and they will probably try a variety of them at some point.