Twitter won't charge for existing services

The internet was all a-Twitter (yes, I went there) this afternoon after a few websites picked up the news that Twitter was going to start charging companies who used the service.

For (internet-time) ages, the question of how Twitter would monetize its service has been a lively topic for discussion, but the issue sprang to the forefront again when Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told Marketing Magazine, "We are noticing more companies using Twitter and individuals following them. We can identify ways to make this experience even more valuable and charge for commercial accounts."

Initially people were reading this as some kind of pay-per-tweet system, but later this afternoon the Twitter blog clarified the issue, saying: Twitter will remain free to use by everyone—individuals, companies, celebrities, etc. What we're thinking about is adding value in places where we are already seeing traction, not imposing fees on existing services.

So what's the plan? According to New York Magazine, who spoke to Stone and Evan Williams (another Twitter co-founder; the third being Jack Dorsey) one possibility would be brand verification (no more FakeInsertNameHeres) and "targeted prompts for users to join company feeds" which sounds dangerously like Tweet-spam to me. The good news is, "both executives are wary of any model that charges individual users."

According to Compete.com, last month Twitter jumped ranks from 22nd to 3rd in a list of most popular social networking sites (behind Facebook and Myspace) and companies are already putting the service to work in both customer support and sales roles. The time seems right for the founders to start monetizing this popularity in some fashion.

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