Twitter Bans Auto Follow, Relaxes Display Requirements

You follow me, I follow you. If you want to do that on Twitter from now on, you’ll have to do it manually because among recent updates to its developer guidelines, the microblogger put an axe to auto follow. In other news, Twitter loosened up its display requirements.

One secret to appearing hugely popular on Twitter is to follow other users in the hope they follow you back. Later you comb through the list of people you are following, drop the non-reciprocaters and repeat the process. Thanks to programs that automated the process, some Twitter users have amassed tens of thousands of followers this way. But Twitter has now put its foot down, saying it will no longer allow bulk follows and auto follow backs.

“We still welcome services which perform analyses on recent followers and highlight those that may interest you, but only if these services only allow you to followback each account individually and manually,” a Twitter employee known only as @truebe wrote in a Twitter discussion.

Twitter's stance on the matter is generating debate. Some don’t agree Twitter should be telling its users who and how to follow.

“If people cannot think for themselves and watch their home stream and target their content to attract desirable followers, that is their problem. Why is Twitter making policy to the lowest common denominator?” wrote @kerijaehnig

The change in practice also socks a big one to third-party auto follow apps, like Twitter Auto Follow and SocialOomph, who may have to re-think their entire business strategy.

“We’re as dumb-founded by Twitter’s decision as you are,” SocialOomph wrote to its customers in a blog post.

Twitter also updated its display requirements. Twitter now allows apps written in languages read right to left, such as Hebrew, Farsi, Arabic and Urdu, to display avatars on the right side, too. (Twitter only just became available for right to left languages last year.) Timestamps on third-party apps can display either the date or the time. (In the past, timestamps had to display both). Also, the Twitter logo is no longer required on individual tweets in third-party clients.

Twitter's changes to its display requirements are minor, but the ban on auto follow may have some reverberations. It will be interesting to see how things shake out over the next month.

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