The Rise and Fall of TwitterFebruary 19th, 2009 by Mike
First it was the curse of the fail whale, and then hackers took on the identity of pop singer Britney Spears and President Barack Obama. Then the curse of the twitter clones which impersonated nearly everyone you could think of. Then yesterday it was reported that actress and pop star Miley Cyrus had her twitter account hacked and suspended. All of these things raise the question, when is enough, enough?
Let me start by saying I love twitter, I check my updates about every half hour or so on a moderately busy day and will probably continue to use it despite all of the problems the social giant has experienced in the past year. I joined Twitter back when your biggest concern was a daily fail whale occurrence. I left twitter briefly after the frustrations of fail whale to play on the then promising Plurk, but in the end returned to my first love twitter for the long haul. Through all of this I have finally come to accept that Twitter has its quirks and that it’s not perfect. The catch is that I am a search marketer and a social media addict, I deal with the internet and various websites all day and know that it doesn’t always play the way we want it to.
But now that twitter is more mainstream and being used by celebrities, mainstream media, moms, dads, and even teens when do the quirks start turning away users who are less in tune with the ins and outs of spammers, hackers, and downtimes? Most everyone I know loved Myspace when it started, but then as the spam got worse and more issues with the site popped up people started moving on to other social websites.
When you consider things like downtimes Twitter has significantly improved instances of the fail whale since I started using it, but he still pokes his head above water from time to time. Most recently during the massive loads caused during SMX. Again as an SEO I understand that there is an increase load coming in because of the event and things are going to happen. To anyone else, Twitter is just having issues and is down.
In the case of exploits and hacks if celebrities are scared off by the lack of security to their accounts many of the people who have joined twitter to interact with celebrities will be quick to follow. If people don’t feel secure they are less likely to stick with your site. I know a number of people who again gave up on Myspace because their accounts had been hacked on more than one occasion.
I Told You I Don’t Like Spam!
Spam is another huge issue. Sure these days our e-mail accounts are smart enough to capture most of the junk that comes in from spammers, but that doesn’t stop follower notifications from bogus spam accounts like in the case of the twitter clones. I was receiving upwards of 25-50 follower notifications a day for a few weeks there from impostor accounts for people like Barry Schwartz, Vanessa Fox, Lisa Barone and tons more. Since I already follow these people I know that these accounts were bogus and I knew the messages that appeared in these accounts were bogus, but again to new twitter users who may be less informed it is very possible they may fall victim to these spammers and either follow them back or even worse click on a spammy link thinking it’s something from a trusted source.
It just goes to show that if Twitter can’t do more to protect it’s users they could face a similar fate to that of Myspace. The more the system is exploited the less trusting new users are going to be and the more wary experienced users will become. I discovered a potential exploit this afternoon when I received a follower notification from a user whose username happened to be their domain name. Turns out when the notification goes out it turns that username into a link, at least which is how it displays in Gmail. If a user can create an account using a spammy or harmful domain name as their username, the unsuspecting may click on the link and wind up in a world of trouble. Again think back to Myspace. Remember all those times you got something that looked like it was Myspace, but it was just a façade to steal your password? I think while Twitter is working to monetize itself it should also look at better ways to secure itself.
What are your thoughts? If the clone accounts, hacking, and downtimes continue would it change the way you see our beloved Twitter?
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