Twitter founder Biz Stone discussed some of the key points of the new Twitter terms of service (TOS) on his blog yesterday. Tweet ownership is getting a lot of attention, but it's the explicit statement leaving the door open for advertising that I find intriguing.
The new TOS has a number of tweaks. Twitter established unequivocally that tweets belong to the tweeter and that Twitter does not own them. The TOS also fine tunes the language about spam and acceptable use, and expands on the use of API's by third party developers to access Twitter services. Oh! And Twitter reserves the right to distribute advertising.
The TOS states "The Services may include advertisements, which may be targeted to the Content or information on the Services, queries made through the Services, or other information." It also goes on to say "In consideration for Twitter granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Twitter and its third party providers and partners may place such advertising on the Services or in connection with the display of Content or information from the Services whether submitted by you or others."
Essentially, Twitter retains the right to use targeted advertising as a source of revenue and you, the user, by virtue of agreeing to the TOS and using the service, agree that its OK.
Twitter is not discussing any specific advertising models. It is not even confirming that advertising will be distributed on Twitter. The TOS simply leaves the option open if Twitter chooses to leverage advertising as a revenue stream.
Why not? Advertising is the grease that keeps the Internet revenue engine running smoothly. Its tried and true. Internet entities like Google have grown from the embryo stage to technology behemoth primarily by feasting on a steady diet of ad revenue.
There have been off and on rumors about a paid subscription version of Twitter- Twitter Pro. Twitter Pro could include a number of perks and benefits not afforded to the freeloading customers. One such benefit could be the ability to distribute ads via Twitter to the freeloading customers.
The specter of advertising has come up before. Earlier this year Stone blogged to say that Twitter isn't interested in the standard banner-advertising model, but that it is certainly open to exploring other avenues for generating revenue with advertising.
The new TOS just underscores that statement and leaves the door open for allowing paid corporate Twitter Pro customers to use the service as an engine for targeted advertising. Seems like a small price to pay (literally) as long as the advertising isn't so pervasive that it blurs the line between marketing and spam.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice, and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.