Twitter’s Issues With Scalability

On GigaOm, there is currently a post about how Robert Scoble proposes to solve Twitter’s perpetual outages due to scale.

I love this topic. Being a veteran of the SMS space, I used to laugh when my colleagues outside of text messaging used to gush at how Twitter beats the “scalability” issues that have plagued telecom offering a “free” platform agnostic approach to receiving messages.

Pardon my French. Such bullshit.

Here’s the deal and I believe Michael Arrington brought it up in Om’s comments – telcos burn the candle on both ends charging you, the user for sending an SMS as well as decrementing a fee per SMS received. Talk about a Utopian business model!

Twitter has swam halfway across the Atlantic ocean – too late to flip the premium switch on Twitter accounts especially if their goal now is to reach critical mass. All of that user data has to be worth something to someone – I’m sure your average every day portal would agree.

Let’s play the game for the sake of entertaining the masses and say that Twitter has a proverbial gun to its head. Make money now or die.

Okay. Well first thing’s first – you can not alienate your core user base through restricting the number of followers, or charging a fee over X number of messages. This is guaranteed to cause a visceral response which will correlate to a drop off in usage, a new competitor, naughty things said about the founder’s moms, etc.

So what about advertising?

That’s probably the easiest to digest. We’re so numb to ads today, will a 140 character tweet chock full of sponsorship really upset the masses?

In a word, yes.

Why? Simple. Because Twitter is ubiquitously set up to fail off the desktop. We can stomach text based ads. We can tolerate display ads. But a text based ad offline – on a mobile device? Enter the CTIA, the US Shortcode governing body, and the big 5 who will as quickly as you can say “tweet” will remove “40404” from Twitter.

Ok that’s a bit extreme. They won’t take the short code away, but I find very few people willing to tolerate receiving a text message based ad for the very reason listed above – SMS costs us MONEY.

I know what you’re thinking. “Alright smart guy, how do you solve this mess?”

It may sound too simple, but I’d fall back on my days running Simplewire to help create the next new Twitter business model. If I’m Twitter, maybe instead of charging on a bulk aggregate of tweets, charge on a tweet per second. If Twitter is really being used for “in the now” messages of immediacy, then what better way to kick a Calacanis or a Scoble power user in the social media nads than to let them know that they will need to PAY for a service fast enough to reach their followers. Offer a free base of 10 Tweets per second. Move that number up the scale and price accordingly. For those with 30,000 followers – do the math. Part of what makes Twitter awesome is the dialog of catch and response between following and follower.

I don’t think the creation of virtual tweets per second ceilings solves a lot of issues surrounding twitter, but I do think it solves more than most.

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