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As social web services proliferate, I’m finding Twitter, my first love, the only one that’s truly become a natural feature of daily life.

New pretenders feel fun and flashy at the outset. But, so far, most soon begin to feel like they are up to something, something other than me, my friends and our conversations. To paraphrase the adage about free services: I end up feeling like the product.

Dave Winer wrote earlier this month that Twitter should generate revenue by licensing our @usernames to us. I said, hell yeah! I would pay a significant annual license fee to keep @wac6 locked up.

There are so many other ways that Twitter could monetize. Alternatively, there are billionaire philanthropists who could do the world the greatest good by buying Twitter and making it the most important democratic information utility. (Which it arguably now is.)

That’s why I was baffled by the latest video from Twitter, talking about ways to promote small businesses on the social networking site. How much should this video concern me? Might it be a parody?

The brand stewards at Twitter, unlike those at Facebook, could not really be this un-cool, no?

William Carleton

Get these quotes from the video:

  • “You don’t write anything new. Twitter simply puts your best tweets in front of more of the right people at the right time.”
  • “You only pay when someone follows your account, or engages with your promoted tweet.”
  • “You determine the limit of how much you want to spend per day, and how much you want to spend per new follower or engagement. So there are never any surprises.”

They say they will take the ads mobile, too. Same as what Facebook has said in its filing for a public offering.

I guess I don’t mind if Twitter makes a tiny corner of Twitter more like Facebook, as long as I don’t have to go there any more than I have to go to the mall. It’s a big Twittersphere. Let the free riders have their commercials. But don’t mess with my timeline or my tweeple. Don’t sell access to me. Let me pay!

My daughter, observing me listen to the video over and over last night in an effort to transcribe the quotes correctly, remarked: “I thought Twitter was just for people to talk to each other. I thought that was what made it slightly less irritating than Facebook.”

Out of the mouths of 23 years olds.

Attorney William Carleton is a member of McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren PLLC, a Seattle law firm. He works with startups and emerging tech companies, their founders and investors. He posts regularly about tech-related legal issues on his blog.

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