If you’re a Twitter user like I am, you probably received an e-mail recently from Biz Stone. No, I don’t know Biz personally, although I’m sure he’s a great guy. After all, he basically invented Twitter. The purpose of his e-mail was just to tell me about the new terms of service that affect me and the 45 million (debatable statistic) other Twitter users, who tweet a combined total of three million times every day.
Biz’s e-mail opened innocuously enough—the kind of casual, just-in-case-you-were-interested tonality that characterizes the social networks’ business correspondence: “We’d like to let you know about our new Terms of Service. As Twitter has evolved, we’ve gained a better understanding of how folks use the service. As a result, we’ve updated the Terms and we’re notifying account holders.”
It sounds pretty good, actually—for you. For starters, advertising yourself or your company on Twitter is now legit. Oh, good, because everyone has been doing that from day one. The move is an example of finally legalizing something that everyone is doing anyway. In this case, it’s not a problem, and as the blog stated: “we leave the door open for advertising. We’d like to keep our options open.”
In addition, Twitter now makes it plain that anything you tweet is your tweet and yours alone. “They are your tweets and they belong to you.” Unlike Facebook, which eagerly takes ownership of your pictures, your status updates, and your favorite music list, Twitter wants you to know that you can keep it. Obviously, in an apropos gesture of ownership, Twitter does clarify that when you tweet, “you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).” Just in case you were wondering.
Twitter APIs are an industry all their own, and Twitter puts a stamp of approval on them. The guidelines for API use are still under construction, but they are welcoming developers who want to create piggyback apps for Twitter. So far, the guidelines are simple, straightforward and nonrestrictive.
In a final tweak (not Tweet), the terms stiffen policies regarding spammers. With recent Twitter imposters, spammers, and other malcontented tweeters, the company has to stiffen the upper lip a bit, just to remind everyone who’s in charge.
While the terms of service are pretty mild and non-life-threatening, they still leave a lot of people wondering, “Is Twitter ever going to make some real money?”