[Editor Update: Jim Gilliam pointed out that our title was inaccurate. We deeply regret the mistake and we’ve updated the title to accurately analyze his interesting idea.]
Jim Gilliam is a self-described “geeky activist building internet tools to shake up a broken political system.” In addition to his websites to this end like govluv.org, he also seems to have a serious love for (obsession with?) Twitter and its potential. And with good reason – Twitter’s unique structure and API should give it an enviable advantage in constructing any number of revenue streams and business alliances.
However, a perceived lack of direction by Twitter in forming a successful business model has brought forth many suggestions by observers in ways they could do so. From paying to increase the 140 character limit to creating geographical hashtags and opening the way for hyperlocal links and advertising, many promising ideas have come out of the discussion. With Twitter’s own business plan announced nearly a year ago not exactly sparking an online revolution, Gilliam threw his hat in the ring.
The article on 3dna.us (which Gilliam co-runs with Jesse Haff ) is extremely short because the idea is stunning simple: allowing accounts to charge to be followed. From that charge, Twitter would take a cut, akin to the Apple app store and the like. He goes on to expand on specific ways this strategy could appeal to both companies and subscribers, as well as addressing concerns about how retweets and the posting of content exclusive to subscribers on external sites would or would not affect the business model.
And the suggestion has sparked debate like perhaps none before it. Through a slew of retweets, a few different stances can be garnered amongst those weighing in. There are many proponents, such as one that opines “I like it…no ads, lots of apps!” There are also those who note the unconventionality of the idea but guardedly agree it warrants discussion. And there are those totally against it, voicing concerns that this move would ‘sully the ecosystem’ of Twitter; in other words, the free exchange of ideas, media, and silly jibber-jabber.
Whatever your personal opinion may be, it’s hard to argue that Twitter would make a boatload of money taking a percentage of the small change tweens would readily shell out to satiate their Bieber Fever and keep up with the Kardashians. If and when it does happen, make sure you drop Gilliam a line to give him props/whine, cuz you heard it there first.