What Should User Expectations Be When An Internet Service Is Free?

Filed Under (Musings) by on 09-14-2009

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Those of you who follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or GTalk probably know by now that Friday afternoon I lost all of my Twitter followers and everyone I was following. For those of you who didn’t know, let me fill you in:

Mid afternoon on Friday I noticed that I had gone tweetless for quite some time. Upon further investigation I discovered that my follower and following number were both set at 0; a scary realization for someone who had nearly 650 followers and was following over 800 tweeple. After navigating through the terrible, terrible, support system used by Twitter I finally figured out how to report my concern via commenting on the “known issue”. After my post and a number of other user posts Twitter admitted there was a problem and at 3:00 pm PST and advised users that they had a fix and it would be resolved today.

It is now 8:32pm PST and my account, and from what I can tell in the Twitter support thread, a number of other accounts are still without any followers and are unable to follow anyone. That’s over 72 hours without a resolve, which has left me crippled in terms of spreading blog posts, information, and interacting with fellow twitter users.

Earlier this morning I had a brief discussion with some of my fellow SEO Dojo members about the issue, and one member in particular, Justin Parks, made an interesting comment; “I don’t think anyone should complain, free is free after all.”. It got me thinking; in one hand he was right. I pay absolutely nothing to help keep Twitter afloat, what right do I have to complain that it has been nearly 72 hours and I’ve been without service. On the other hand, Twitter provides a service to the public. Free or not I feel it is in some way their obligation to try and support their customer base as much as possible; if not for the users alone, at least out of good business sense.

Since my post in the thread Friday afternoon at least 30 other twitter users have complained of the same problem I am experiencing, and no further updates regarding an ETA or status of the issue have been made by Twitter their post on Friday.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think free services like Twitter have an obligation to support their customers better than they are currently, or is Justin correct in the sense that if we aren’t paying for it we should just deal? Let me know what you think in the poll below. I may be doing a follow up post once service is restored and I’ll use the data collected.

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