How much would you pay for people to know you’re really you? That the updates coming in every 2 minutes on that twitter page come from yours truly and not someone else… someone else pretending to be you?
If you’re like most people, the answer is not much. But there are people out there that really care, and with good reason. If you’re the FBI, Oprah Winfrey, or one of the million other celebrities currently on Twitter, you probably don’t want someone out there passing themselves off as yourself while posting fake updates to an account literally millions are watching.
Some people to whom money is not an issue already pay thousands of dollars for meaningless SSL certificates – something tucked away in the corner of your browser window that no one pays much attention to. But imagine if Twitter were to start offering “verified accounts” that have been authenticated as belonging to a particular person or institute… how many of these celebrity accounts would suddenly turn into cash cows for Twitter?
Right now, it looks like that’s what Twitter has in mind. In a recent blog post, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone talks about the upcoming limited release of “verified accounts” in order to curb fraud amongst accounts claiming to belong to celebrities. There is no mention of charging customers for this service, but the way it’s worded, that is pretty much taken for granted as a future step in the process:
The experiment will begin with public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other well known individuals at risk of impersonation. We hope to verify more accounts in the future but due to the resources required, verification will begin only with a small set.
When we do start testing Account Verification, we will be sure to provide ample methods for feedback. Initially, verification will not be tested with businesses. However, we do see an opportunity in that arena so we’ll keep you posted when we have something to share.
That’s not to say this isn’t a good idea though. Has Twitter finally found a way to make some serious cash without alienating its userbase, providing “additional features” no one really needs but can make them plenty of cash from the more high-profile accounts currently on the site? God knows Paris Hilton, et. al. would be willing to pay the cash, while the rest of us rely on word of mouth, links back from official websites, and common sense to give our followers the confidence they need to trust the updates we post.
Follow me on Twitter @mqudsi.