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Twitter Announces 'Pay As You Tweet' Subscription Plan For All Users (And Will Backdate Your Invoice)

Twitter’s premium business model and plans to monetize the social media platform have long been the subject of debate and speculation, with many strongly opposed to the idea of any kind of advertising on the system.

Others embrace the concept behind a ‘pro Twitter’, and it’s likely these latter folks that Twitter has targeted with this announcement which, while shocking, was perhaps inevitable, certainly as the company looks to generate a consistent source of revenue.

Over the official Twitter blog, the co-founders write about the network’s new Pay As You Tweet subscription model, which will begin to charge all users each time they update their status on the system.

When we speak publicly about how Twitter might become a profitable business, we talk about the idea of commercial usage and then explain that we’re still exploring what that means–that’s true. We also say traditional web banner advertising isn’t interesting to us which is also true. However, to say we are philosophically opposed to making money is incorrect.

The idea of taking money to run traditional banner ads on Twitter.com has always been low on our list of interesting ways to generate revenue. However, facilitating connections between businesses and individuals in meaningful and relevant ways is compelling. In light of this, I’m pleased to announce that from May 1, 2010, Twitter will become a subscription-only social network.

On this launch date all of our users will be privy to our new ‘Pay As You Tweet’ price plan, which will charge you for each new tweet you submit to the network. This will be priced at a very reasonable one cent per tweet. You will be able to buy tweet credit in advance, in multiples of thousands, and it’s important that you do this as once your account credit hits zero, you won’t be able to update until you top up.

Businesses and brands will be able to opt into our ‘Twitter Unlimited’ package, which will ensure that their accounts are always available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ll simply invoice you at the end of each month. And if you’re a celebrity, we’ll probably give it to you for free.

One more thing. Because we really need the money, on May 1 you’ll need to top up your accounts to the point that all your existing tweets – that is, everything you’ve ever submitted to Twitter since the day that you first signed up – are paid for before you will be able to tweet anything new.

This modest influx of cash will allow us to immediately upgrade our servers, move to nicer offices and buy more art. More importantly, your tweets will facilitate us with the means to continue lead the lifestyle to which we’ve become very much accustomed.

It’s this backdating part that disturbs me the most – while I don’t necessarily object to the idea of paying for Twitter, I’ve already written well over 20,000 tweets. This means that from May I’ll already owe Twitter over two hundred dollars, and even if I qualify for one of their plans I’ll still be having to watch what I tweet.

I also would have preferred to see the option for a continuation of a free version of Twitter, perhaps supported by advertisements that appear within our streams.

With an estimated fifty million tweets now being delivered to the network each and every day, and over 10 billion tweets since launch, Twitter looks to earn some 15 million dollars a month from this revenue source – and an incredible $100 million from all the tweets already on the system.

Assuming, of course, that thousands, and even millions of users don’t suddenly abandon their accounts. It’s not as if they can force them to pay, after all. Still, I fear that those of us that have started to use the network as a business tool have very much been forced over a barrel.

I haven’t quite made up my mind how I feel about this radical change of direction for Twitter, but we all have a few weeks to decide whether we vote with our wallets, or our feet. What about you – will YOU stay with Twitter now that you’ll have to pay?

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