Twitter sets 'following' limits to combat spam

Twitter's new limits, which some are discovering just today, seems to have been made effective since the middle of last month, but don't appear to be fixed in stone.

The way Twitter works, each user's chain of posts may be "followed" by others, and a user selects the feeds, or "twitters," he chooses to follow. For the average user, it would appear the limit on the number of feeds he can follow is 2,000, although that number may increase as more users follow his own feed. Some with high traffic, but whose follow-to-follower ratio is more balanced, appear able to follow more feeds.

"Follow limits are based on several things, one of which is our belief in a person's good standing and intention," the service's support site states. "The behind-the-scenes portion of follow limiting varies by account, relationship, and changes over time. Based on current behavior in the Twitter community, we've concluded that this is both fair and reasonable."

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The help desk article goes on to confirm the cap's existence. It varies by person, meaning some may be given more leeway than others. In fact, Twitter says that caps would remain in place "until you follow fewer people, or more people follow you."

A notable example of this would be popular Fast Company blogger Robert Scoble, who himself follows 21,040 twitters. At the same time, he has 31,953 followers -- a fact which probably enables him to continue to follow so many people.

Besides the limits on following, Twitter has also implemented other caps, including: 1,000 updates per day, on any and all devices; 250 direct messages per day; 100 API requests per hour; or meeting the maximum number of follow attempts in a day.

"While we figure out what works best for everyone, the limits may change occasionally," the help desk article reads, "but this is the nucleus and future limits will be based upon the success of these."

While some may question the move, Twitter said its service has always been about maintaining limits, quipping that "constraint inspires creativity." It pointed out that most users would never see the caps, and only unreasonable use would be affected.

The caps could also have the effect of keeping the service up as spam traffic is eliminated, thus allowing legitimate 'tweets' to get through.

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