Twitter: Autofollow ‘sends the wrong message’

no more autofollow on twitterJust got a mass e-mail from Biz Stone explaining why Twitter accounts with autofollow enabled (this was originally an option in user settings) will no longer be grandfathered in. And in fact, there will be no more autofollow accounts.

I’ve always been mixed on this, however, I now feel that it is in the service’s best interest to disallow autofollow’s across the board. Still this can be easily circumvented using other services, such as SocialToo, which accesses the Twitter API to enable auto-follows, and — much worse in my opinion — allow users to automatically send direct messages to new followers). There is even a website — http://www.twitterautofollow.com/ — devoted to listing accounts that had autofollow enabled.

Why does Twitter discourage autofollow?

“Namely, it is unlikely that anyone can actually read tweets from thousands of accounts which makes this activity disingenuous,” the letter reads. At the same time it is a mixed message to encourage the use of Twitter as a legitimate community-building tool, without making it easier for one to follow back followers. In the end, I grew very frustrated with the auto-follow concept, primarily due to the fact that a majority of new followers (on the @LiveEarth account that I administer) appeared to be complete fakes. Especially during the month that the account was featured as a suggested user.

I knew Twitter would disable autofollow soon enough. But the mildly defensive tone of the explanation was unexpected. What are your thoughts on Twitter etiquette?

Read the full text of the e-mail below:

Hi There,

I’m contacting you because you have a Twitter account for which
we enabled something called “autofollow.” This is not a public
feature, it’s something we did for a limited set of accounts
such that they automatically follow any account that follows
them.

We’re going to discontinue autofollow because this behavior
sends the wrong message. Namely, it is unlikely that anyone can
actually read tweets from thousands of accounts which makes
this activity disingenuous.

However, we understand that there may be exceptions such as
applications built using our API or the ability to exchange
direct messages. There are also some who think it’s simply
polite to follow back other accounts.

While we’re going to stop supporting autofollow, we’d like to
find a way to support the other goals folks are really trying
to accomplish. Please feel free to reply to this email and let
us know how we can do this better together.

Thanks,
Biz Stone, Co-founder
Twitter, Inc.

One Reply to “Twitter: Autofollow ‘sends the wrong message’”

  1. I'm the CEO of SocialToo – just to clarify, SocialToo does not offer the ability to auto-DMs. Our service is built solely around the premise of learning more about the people you follow and enabling you to clean up the conversation better. In fact, we'll help you block the DMs from other services. Anything that leads to spam or “gaming”, we are against, and are working to build new ways to stop this activity.

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