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Hey Twitter, Please charge me $5 a month.

Dear Twitter,

Please charge me $5 a month.

At a local tech discussion here in Portland a couple of weeks ago, one of the attendees said that if Twitter started charging money, he’d move to His rationale was this: software is easy to change but hardware is hard to change.

That thought has stayed in my brain for two weeks now. Is software easy to change? No. Absolutely not. That is a flawed premise. If software were easier to change than hardware, Microsoft would have crapped out a long time ago. Software being hard to change is practically the backbone of the software industry. There are entire vertical markets whose existence is predicated upon the near-impossibility of changing software.

As a recent example of how hard it can be to change software, just look at the people who got screwed by the sudden closure of I Want Sandy and Stikkit. And that was just a pair of websites that were free and hadn’t been around forever.

Certainly I can point to the series of social networking sites that I’ve used and abandoned with great ease over the years: Friendster, MySpace, Ryze, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two. But none of those were sites that I actually relied on. I probably invested the most time in MySpace (many years ago), but even after many, many years on that site there is nothing there that I can’t do without. If MySpace burned down tonight it wouldn’t phase me at all.

If Twitter burned down tonight, I’d go nuts.

Twitter has this network of people that I’m plugged into. Unlike other social networks, I get genuine value every day from Twitter. Sure, I could try to replicate that network on But you know what I’d end up with? A network of only the alpha-geeks who bothered to switch over to! Well that’s fine, but only to a point. I like alpha-geeks as much as the next alpha-geek. But those aren’t the only people I want to be connected to. And I sure as hell don’t want to have to straddle services like I already do with IM.

I’m afraid that if Twitter doesn’t figure out a good (read: non-evil) way to make money, that they’ll either experience the ultimate Fail Whale (run out of cash and close) or turn to the Dark Side (and ruin Twitter). Either way, I’d be stuck without this cool network of people.

So, Twitter, if you’re listening (and hopefully you’re too busy improving your service to be reading crap like this), please charge me $5 a month. Trust me on this. You don’t need to do any market research here. I am a user asking you to charge me. That is a sales person’s wet dream!

$5 is the limit though – you can’t get away with $10 a month. That would piss off too many people and then they really would leave for and parts unknown. And no, you can’t charge micropayments per tweet. If you charge me 2-cents per tweet, I’ll probably leave too. Pay-per-tweet is a stupid idea and I wish people would quit suggesting it. You don’t want to punish the people who create value on Twitter. A flat-fee is simple and fair.

Certainly let people have a free account if they want to receive Tweets. And let them DM their friends from their free account. Why not? That would be great. But please charge those of us who want to talk. Get some cash in your door before you run out of whatever fickle VC steam you’ve got and we lose you entirely. In exchange, as a paid subscriber I will receive no ads in my Twitter stream. (Or anywhere else!) And you’ll make twit-spam nearly impossible, since other users won’t be able to talk to me without my permission. You’ll effectively cut off the MLM and Get-Rich-Quick idiots who want to put me in their downline or have me put water in my gas tank.

Then you can start adding some more features to the cool system you’ve created.

Thanks for listening,