It has been rumoured, discussed and even parodied for some time now, but Twitter has finally decided to monetise itself.
The micro-blogging phenomenon will take its first steps towards a potentially liquid/viable future today after announcing it will offer a premium range of expanded services to corporations, small businesses and high profile Twitterers.
Included in this will be an identity verification service to combat the rash of fake profiles which plague the site, though we await further details. The service was at pains to reassure users that there will always be a free version for mass consumers.
"We think there will be opportunities to provide services to commercial entities that help them get even more value out of Twitter," said Twitter co-founder Biz Stone in an e-mail to Reuters. "If these services are valuable to companies, we think they may want to pay for them."
To test the water Twitter has been running unobtrusive adds on user profiles (see above) in recent weeks to gage reaction, an inevitable first step after site traffic rose 1 000 per cent between January '08 and '09. In fact, following much high profile media coverage, latest Hitwise figures suggest Twitter traffic in February was up 1,300 per cent year-on-year with more than 7m users now signed up. That said, this still pales in comparison to the 175m active users on Facebook.
In related news Microsoft has now waded into the Twitterverse/sphere/scape with 'ExecTweet', a service designed to give users fast and easy access to 'Find and Follow Top Business Execs on Twitter'. Which naturally heightens the obvious speculation: who will buy Twitter first, Microsoft or Google?