Twitter co-founder Biz Stone sent out an Email earlier this afternoon to a number of users who had previously enabled ‘autofollowing’, stating that the company is planning to shut the feature down. ‘Autofollowing’ allows users to automatically reciprocate whenever another Twitter user follows them. The feature has never been widely available to the public (at least not through Twitter’s site), and was only enabled by sending a request to Twitter support.
While Stone ackowledges that the autofollow feature does have some uses (such as for applications built on the Twitter API or simply to be polite), generally speaking most of these autofollows are disingenuous. Many of the more popular Twitter users who have autofollow enabled are now following tweets from thousands of people at a time, the vast majority of which they clearly aren’t paying attention to.
This is probably a good move on Twitter’s part, as I’ve always found the practice to be pretty spammy. Of course, there are still a number of third party services that help users accomplish the same thing. What remains to be seen is if Twitter will try to disable these third party services, or if it simply doesn’t want to be officially condoning the practice.
Below is the letter in its entirety:
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
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.
Biz Stone, Co-founder