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Tweet Much? Micro-blog service updates its Terms of Service

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Tweet Much? Micro-blog service updates its Terms of Service

What you should now about Twitter now....


Biz Stone sent me an email. 

Believing it to be a potentially raunchy pseudonym, I almost marked the email for deletion assuming it was spam. Against my better judgment, I read Biz Stone's email and immediately "tweeted" my response. 

Turns out, Stone is the co-founder of, the micro-blogging phenomenon your kids may have told you about.  Stone wrote that the rules of engagement for Twitter were changing and his email to me and every other registered Twitter account holder, was intended to notify us personally. Biz Stone apparently likes transparency.

Time to re-review the fine print. Sounds like fascinating reading, right?  I clicked through to read the new Terms of Service by which, via my continued use of Twitter, I agreed to be bound.  Here are the highlights:

To date, Twitter has managed to remain relatively ad-free.  But, like every other web-based, profit-seeking company, Twitter wants to "leave the door open for Advertising."  Short of cash actually walking through the door on it's own, Twitter's best bet is to sell ads based on keywords in tweets (content) or to leverage what they know about you (context). 

In leveraging content, if your tweet contains the word "cactus" it may cause followers reading your entry to see ads for tweezers, sunscreen or prickly pear jelly. Advertisers will bid for the top ad spot next to your tweets so long as their chosen keywords appear. 

Says Twitter,

We're leaving the door open for exploration in this area but we don't have anything to announce.

In leveraging context, Twitter might soon include using the standard profile information you volunteered upon account creation, combining it with analysis of the language of your tweets, the profiles of those you follow and the language used in their tweets to create a marketing identity for you.  For instance, If I am a mom who tweets about hectic work schedules and has 100 followers who are also moms also tweeting about work, kids and schedules, my "targeted" ads might include offers for spa vacations.  One can only hope. 

Twitter plainly says that where it makes sense (or cents) they will share everything they know about me: 

We engage certain trusted third parties to perform functions and provide services to us, including, without limitation, hosting and maintenance, customer relationship, database storage and management, and direct
marketing campaigns. We will share your personally identifiable information with these third parties...

I may or may not know who is using my personal zeitgeist for or against me.

Lastly, Twitter is trying to avoid confusion over the commonly debated area of Internet copyright by proudly proclaiming that Twitter users "own" their tweets. Consider that the Terms of Service also grants Twitter a

...worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or
distribution methods (now known or later developed). 

You own it, but Twitter can do whatever it wants with it, including changing it without your knowledge and profiting from the use of it without compensating you.  In fact, Twitter has made even easier for other developers to write their own applications to extend the Twitter ecosystem.  Your content could have a viral effect, ending up on sites and in contexts you never knew existed, nor intended.  Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your purpose.

In a nutshell: Twitter has defined redefined the terms of our relationship. Understanding those terms helps me decide whether to take it or leave it. The Internet is an inherently different communication tool and the expectations of instant permanence, ultra intimacy and unrequited humor guide what I share about myself and what I'm doing at any given moment.  Twitter's Terms of Service demonstrate how they are upholding their end of the bargain; the rest is up to me.

Twitter has managed to demonstrate how true mastery of social media, including effective, coordinated use of blogs, email, tweets and even a catchy co-founder's name, can further cement a good product's position in the hearts and minds of it user base.  Score one point for transparency, given the smooth roll out of potentially unwanted news.

Though what Twitter has actually "clarified" is still very vague, that is to be expected given that the nature of a Terms of Service agreement is to be open-ended enough for the provider to do new things, yet ofer a basic modicum of protection to the user.  What is crucial is the continued conversation about revenue models, value of their service and including user feedback into the equation.  Score two points for consensus building and creative business strategy.

Finally, score one point for self awareness. Twitter seems to understand its relevance to the world as a collective framework of ideas, avoiding the self-absorbed pitfalls of other Internet companies that think it's about the gadget rather than the gadget user.  Their blog posting admits,

These updates complement the spirit of Twitter. If we've left something out, or the nature of the service changes, then we'll revisit the Terms—there's a feedback link on the page... Twitter understands that it's not about the technology, it's about how we all use the service that matters most. 

What more can users ask of Twitter?


Twitter Defined

Twitter is an online, public diary service where you can record 140-character entries periodically answering the question: "What are you doing?" The frequency and detail of your entries or "tweets" is what makes classifies it as micro-blogging technology.  However, the power of Twitter is more of a macro effect.  My Twitter community is made up of Followers - those who listen to my tweets - and those I am Following - people whose tweets I matter to me.  Much has been made about the collective psychology of this sort of online community, even naming Twitter to be a sort of sixth sense.

Follow me!

(and some other good twitter users)

Biz Stone's email


We'd like to let you know about our new Terms of Service. As Twitter has evolved, we've gained a better understanding of how folks use the service. As a result, we've updated the Terms and we're notifying account holders.

We've posted a brief overview on our company blog and you can read the Terms of Service online. If you haven't been by in a while, we invite you to visit Twitter to see what else is new.


These updates complement the spirit of Twitter. If the nature of our service changes, we'll revisit the Terms as necessary. Comments are welcome, please find the "feedback" link on the Terms of Service page.

Biz Stone, Co-founder
Twitter, Inc.

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