Twitter’s Follow Limit Makes Twitter Less Useful

In an effort to curb spam, over the weekend Twitter decided to add following and update limits to its accounts. The limits are as follows:

  • 1,000 total updates per day, on any and all devices
  • 250 total direct messages per day, on any and devices
  • 100 API requests per hour
  • Maximum number of follow attempts in a day

Some people are also running into varying follow limits that cap people on the number of friends they can follow. The most common number seems to be 2,000 follows, but this varies from person to person, and is based in part on the number of followers a person has.

Last Thursday, Twitter talked about the idea of introducing follow caps. “What is a reasonable number of people to follow, anyway? Most users may have a hard time finding 500 accounts they are interested in — while others would think a limit of 10,000 is too low,” wrote company co-founder Evan Williams in a blog post. “The point is, there is no right or wrong. And there is no perfect formula. We do our best by taking a multi-dimensional approach. We look at a number of factors — including how many people are following you back — before applying limits.”

The Twitter knowledge base page about follow and update limits remind users that Twitter has always included limits, starting with the 140 character limit on posts. “Twitter has always been about limits, embracing the idea that constraint inspires creativity,” it says. However, though it’s true that limits can inspire creativity, there’s not too much creative about building a group of people to chat with, so we’re not sure that mantra applies very well here.

My former colleague Marshall Kirkpatrick famously once said that Twitter was paying his rent. What he meant by that was that he had built up a large enough community around himself on Twitter (he follows just over 2,100 people and is followed by just over 4,200) so that he could easily source stories among his contacts and lean on Twitter to help with research. A follow limit would greatly impair Kirkpatrick’s ability to get the most out of the service if it kept him from adding worthwhile contributors to his community.

Judging by the follower to followee ratios for many of the top followers on Twitter, a good portion of them might be affected, and clearly many (most) aren’t spammers. The Associated Press looks like it run into the 2,000 follows limit, for example.

According to Evan Williams, the limits are a work in progress, and according to the Twitter knowledge base more limits will be imposed in the future.

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  • http://www.dangrossman.info Dan Grossman

    Raise the limits on request by those that have a good reason (like the AP). The rest of Twitter’s users don’t need to be following thousands of people, there’s no way a human can process that many incoming tweets anyway.

    Plus, why do bloggers care so much about Twitter anyway? I’m tired of reading about every little hiccup with their service on every blog that can claim any tangential relation to the service (like this one on a web design site).