Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter Tackles Spam, and Sets Its Sights on Bigger Challenges (Take a Guess)

Now that Twitter doesn’t have to worry about raising money ever again (right?), it can spend time tackling all sorts of projects, big and small. Here’s one of the latter: The company has created a better way for users to flag spam accounts.

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that Twitter has replaced a cumbersome and completely nonintuitive process with one that makes more sense. That’s good, right?

The flip side is that spam really isn’t one of Twitter’s most pressing problems.

In fact, Twitter’s antispam qualities were one of its best features from the very start: “Spam” on Twitter isn’t like other services’ spam since no one can actually send you spam and clog up your inbox. You only see it if you’re gazing at messages that include your name. So it’s aesthetically offensive, but not the kind of thing that actually makes Twitter less useful.

In the more proactive category: Twitter’s “lists” feature, which curates interesting groups of Twitter users to follow, should debut next week, I’m told. This one does tackle a more significant problem for Twitter: New users come to the site and have no idea what to do or whom to pay attention to. (Twitter’s quasicontroversial “Suggested Users List” doesn’t really cut it, though it does drive Robert Scoble nuts, which is amusing.)

And in the time-to-get-serious category: Actual revenue generation. Twitter’s giant cash pile means the company doesn’t have to start making money anytime soon. But it’s going to start trying, I’m told, with a series of…well, I heard them described by someone familiar with the company’s plans as “experiments.” Alternate name for them: “Don’t freak out if this stuff doesn’t work.”

We already know what one of them is: A plan to sell both Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) access to Twitter’s data stream. But I’m told we should see other kinda-sorta trials in coming months.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik