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Is Twitter Afraid of Google?

Twitter has recently added the nofollow tag to all links left on the users’ bio field. This change has been the object of much controversy in both the SEO and the Internet marketing industries. Why? Because many suspect Twitter to have succumbed to Google’s pressure.

How did this story begin?

Everything started when David Naylor published a Twitter backlink tip on his blog. That same day, Matt Cutts — yes, you read it right — sent an email and a twit to Twitter’s co-founder Evan Williams, regarding Naylor’s post.

Now can you see the origin of this controversy?

Many people believe that Cutt’s email was interpreted by Twitter’s staff as a warning or something like that, hence the decision to give no link juice at all to any Twitter users.

What are people saying about this change on Twitter?

  • As usual, many have been using the (old, unoriginal) classical argument: both Twitter and Google are entitled to run their business as they see fit; if you aren’t happy, choose other services or start your own.
  • Several have pointed out that at the stage Twitter is, it shouldn’t be afraid of Google, since it doesn’t depend solely on Google traffic to succeed.
  • Many Twitter users agree that, being a microblogging service, Twitter should let links pass juice, like any other blog service (e. g. Blogger/Blogspot, which is owned by Google). After all, since Twitter relies on user-generated content, it would be only fair to reward members for making Twitter so powerful and famous.
  • Some have suggested that instead of punishing all members by automatically adding the nofollow tags to all links, Twitter should find a way to distinguish good, honest users from ill-intentioned ones and treat both types accordingly. Therefore, Twitter should adjust its technology so that nofollow is removed from the links posted by non-spamming members.
  • It has been noted by several people that it is Google who should fix its flawed algorithm, instead of expecting that site owners do all the spam fighting.
  • Those who support Google and Twitter often claim that the change on the microblogging service only affects a small part of its users, i. e., those familiar with SEO. Other Twitter members simply wouldn’t care at all. However, it’s been argued that just because someone isn’t aware of a benefit, doesn’t mean said benefit should be denied to them.

What do Twitter’s staff and Matt Cutts have to say?

I’ve read the official Twitter Blog and couldn’t find anything on this subject over there. They do write regularly about their fight against spam. Still, no mention to the nofollow controversy. Same goes for their most recent newsletter, which I received two days ago: not a single word about nofollow and the such.

It’s possible that this topic has been discussed by their staff via Twitter itself. Since I don’t follow any of their employees, founders etc., I may have missed something. In case you have spotted this “something” that I’ve supposedly missed, please share the link(s) in the comment form.

As for Matt Cutts, since his name is directly involved in this controversy, I hoped he would blog about it (which was the main reason why I didn’t write this post earlier). Fortunately for me, he eventually did it. Nonetheless, I must say that Danny Sullivan’s comments are by far the very best pieces you will find on that page.