Twitter: why complain about the failures of a free service?

Twitter has had quite a few technical problems lately. Some people take it the humorous way, some even programmed a website where you can check whether twitter is down or not. (reminds me of isitchristmas.com some people have way too much time…)

Twitter has become very popular. More than one million people are tweeting, some are updating their status many times a day. Many people have started using it as an instant messaging tool at the same time. Works fine, and you can even use it seamlessly on the go, on your mobile phone.

But since twitter started having their problems more frequently, people have started to complain. Of course it’s a bummer, if you can’t update your status (even though I can happily pass on quite a few of the statusses some people publish all the time). And it’s even worse if you’re depending on the IM feature of twitter. But heck, if you need a better IM tool, get skype, msn, icq or any of those!

So far, twitter does not take any money for their services, nor is there any advertising financing it. I really do wonder how they make their money? Is it just with the inbound SMS messages? Do they actually include a margin on top of what you need to pay for SMS anyway? I wouldn’t know, because I am sending my twitter SMS from Germany to the UK (where the only twitter number in Europe is available) and I wouldn’t know how much regular SMS would cost in contrast to the twitter SMS.

My question is: can/should you really complain so loudely about the failures of a free service? If their business model was already advertising financed, or if they would charge for their services, I could understand all those people complaining.

But this way, I think people should rather use and enjoy it, while it works, and if it doesn’t, be patient. In Germany, we have an expression saying: “einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul”. (Means, basically: if someone gives you a horse as a present, don’t bother checking for its health.)

PS: as I write this, twitter is down once again.

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5 Responses to “Twitter: why complain about the failures of a free service?”

  • [...] has now come clean on its technical problems. Roland Hachmann is surprised that we complain about Twitter’s failures when it’s free. However it might appear that powerful [...]

  • [...] has now come clean on its technical problems. Roland Hachmann is surprised that we complain about Twitter’s failures when it’s free. However it might appear that powerful [...]

  • Andrea:

    Why doesn’t Twitter try something new and have voluntary sponsorship for accounts. Similar to Livejournal Plus accounts in that you have advertising on the page for more services free. Yes, Twitter is free, but so is just about every other social networking tool worth using, so if they want to stay usable, they’ll have to improve performance. This means, bring in advertisers so the service can stay free and also improve with the new cashflow.

  • Roland Hachmann:

    I think twitter is already on its way of doing that. I read a few posts on german websites about that. Also, I read that they are adding premium functionalities which you can get when paying a premium fee. However, there isn’t any information yet, what these premium functionalities will be…

  • Matt:

    I do think it’s fair to complain. Our time is valuable. If Twitter markets itself as a quick and easy way to keep in touch and I have to refresh and retry several times to accomplish one simple task, it is not worth our time. When what is promised does not match what is delivered, users have the right to complain – even if it’s free.

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