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This article was published on May 24, 2010

Twitter clarifies its advertising policy. Developer or user, you should read this.

Twitter clarifies its advertising policy. Developer or user, you should read this.

After this morning’s announcement that twitter would be banning all third party companies from advertising within user twitter streams (e.g., MyLikes) . It followed up the post with an update to its Twitter API Terms of Service to clarify to app developers and users alike exactly what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to earning money from advertising.

We’re in the process of breaking it down below but in all honesty, users should be pleased and developers should not feel disheartened by the news (on the contrary, this is cleaning up the ecosystem). App developers who wish to include advertising in-stream are still able to do so using Twitter Ads and those with more inventive ideas for out-of-stream advertising can still do so too.

Why should users be pleased? Well every point genuinely appears to be in the best interests of user experience and content ownership. Both integral to twitter’s long term success.

If you have zero time to read any more of this, the top two points are the least you should take from twitter’s Terms of Service:

App developers will from now on need to:

  • respect user content — Tweets may be used in advertisements, not as advertisements.
  • respect user experience — build your service around the timeline, not in the timeline.

For the specifics, read on (out take is under each point).

1. Twitter Ads. Twitter reserves the right to serve advertising via its APIs (“Twitter Ads”). If you decide to serve Twitter Ads once we start delivering them, we will share a portion of advertising revenue with you per our then-current terms and conditions.

Our Take: We knew this already but any app developer that chooses to include in-stream advertising will have to use Twitter Ads but in doing so will earn a share of advertising revenue. Exactly how much has not been specified.

2. Advertising Around Twitter Content
(a) We encourage you to create advertising opportunities around Twitter content that are compliant with these Rules. In cases where Twitter content is the basis (in whole or in part) of the advertising sale, we require you to compensate us (recoupable against any fees payable to Twitter for data licensing). For example, you may sell sponsorships or branding around gadgets or iframes that include Tweets and other customized visualizations of Twitter. Please contact us for questions and information at [email protected], or to notify us of an advertising opportunity.

Our Take: Twitter still seems to be encouraging the creation of innovative ad models that don’t intrude on the user’s in-stream experience. That said, from now on, app developers are going to need to share that ad revenue with twitter. Again, how much has not been specified.

Also, what is not clear is just to what extent “twitter content is the basis (in whole or in part) of the advertising sale” goes. We’re certain blogs or sites (such as ourselves) that use twitter’s embeddable widgets under our advertising in the sidebar will not need to share advertising revenue with twitter. But how about companies that might collect twitter lists or streams as the basis for a product and decides to use advertising around the borders of the content?

If you’re paying twitter for data access, like Google and Bing are then the revenue shared will be minus whatever you are paying twitter. For most app developers this is negligible.

(b) You may generally advertise around and on applications or sites that display Tweets, but you may not place any advertisements within the Twitter timeline on your Service other than Twitter Ads.

Our Take: As mentioned previously, under no circumstances can an app developer include ads that don’t come from Twitter in its app stream.

(c) Your advertisements cannot resemble or reasonably be confused by users as a Tweet.

Our Take: No fake tweets or anything that makes it appear on face value to be a genuine tweet but in reality isn’t. So FuckYeahFakeTweets and FakeWhale are gonners – but surely there was no plans to turn either into a serious business.

(d) You may advertise in close proximity to the Twitter timeline (e.g., banner ads above or below timeline), but there must be a clear separation between Twitter content and your advertisements.

3. Using Twitter Content. You must get permission from the user that created the Tweet if You:
– want to use their Tweet on a commercial durable good or product (for example, using a Tweet on a t-shirt or a poster or making a book based on someone’s Tweets); or
– create an advertisement that implies the sponsorship or endorsement on behalf of the user.

Our Take: From now on, any tweets used on commercial products needs to have the written permission of the tweeter themselves. Looking at you Tweet Nothings and Twitotshirt.

Developer or user, what’s your take on all this? Developers, are these restrictions going to restrict the potential for twitter innovation in your apps? Users, are there any negatives to this from your perspective?