Twitter has grown a user base to such extremes that even my own Mother asked if I was Twittering the other night after she saw it mentioned in an episode of Entertainment Tonight.  To my own amazement while flipping through the channels last night, one of the financial shows had a segment called Twitter Time but even after watching for several minutes, I couldn’t figure out how anything they were saying was relevant.  Twitter has become the buzzword for 2009 and more and more people are hoping onto the Twitter train, but is that a good thing?

Major news outlets including TV, newspaper, local media and magazines send out tweets with links to their articles, this allows people to stay up to date on current events.  Some, like @reuters have sent out nearly 25,000 tweets, often sending bursts of 10-30 within only a few short minutes of each other.  That’s a lot of information to digest, and the main reason why I don’t follow any major news outlet on Twitter.  For those of us who have tweets sent to our phones via SMS or use an app on iPhones, this leads to an unmanageable amount of information to deal with.

News outlets are only part of the problem, many other Twitter accounts are used solely to spread spam, bad links, or sell you something.  The problem is, Twitter has such an open API that forcing someone to pay for what they are already doing or have already incorporated into their online presence might prove hard to do.  There is talk of premium services, which can only mean worse things for the vast majority of “free” accounts as I see it.  I’d imagine premium services would be faster delivery of tweets, tweets delivered at a specific time or an unlimited amount of tweets per day or month.  What else could they possibly offer? What’s a price point that would entice someone to pay for the premium service? Would @guykawasaki pay $100 per month for it?  How about $500 per month?  With nearly 100,000 followers, every message he sends out is transmitted that many times, more if they are also sent to followers cell phones or retweeted, not only does that cost money from a server side, Guy often is promoting one of his online sites or answering a question from one of his followers, either way, it’s usually to gain traffic.  @the_real_shaq is approaching one half million followers and power user @kevinrose is responsible for shutting down his fair share of websites due to bandwidth limitations whenever she sends a link out to one of his 350,000 followers.  While Shaq and Kevin usually tweet about what they are doing or to stay in touch with fans and rarely push their own sites, Guy, Reuters, CNN, ABC, etc. do just that, advertise with little regard to the users who follow them.  Who should pay and why?

Speculation on the value of Twitter has ranged from $10 million dollars to nearly $1 billion dollars, yet the company turns a zero dollar profit, they actually don’t make money, it was never part of their business plan.  Like YouTube several years ago, it was built out of a need, to fill a hole, and now it’s struggling to figure out how to make money after they’ve declined several buy out options.  In my opinion, YouTube has suffered in the quality from a user perspective since Google bought them, as most videos have ads on them, which you must click to close.  Sure Google brought HD, more bandwidth and a better search algorithm to the plate, but in the end, it’s a better experience to watch a video at Vimeo than YouTube.  I won’t even bother going into a rant about how unstable Twitter is now, I’ve seen the fail whale too many times this week alone.

If this is the only way Twitter can generate income, so be it, just as long as they don’t start throwing in worthless tweets from bots in the hopes of generating income.  This paid pro account will be the tipping point to the success or failure of Twitter, as I’m sure there are a dozen other similar services ready to take their spot with a similar user interface and a real business model laid out.

Ironicly, as much as it sounds like a bitching session, this article will be tweeted from my account, @mikepanic, automaticly thanks to the open API and a plugin done for me.