Twitter to scrap controversial Suggested Users List

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Tempest in Twitterville may soon be
over.

Seeking to soothe the tweeting masses, Twitter co-founder
Biz Stone says the micro-blogging darling of the Internet would soon jettison
its hand-picked and widely scorned “Suggested Users List.”

Intended as a tool for newcomers to quickly find other
Twitter users to “follow,” the list of rap stars, politicos and TV
stars was seen by many as capricious and an unfair plug for celebrities who
already have more celebrity than they know what to do with.

“That list will be going away” Stone told
reporters at a conference in Malaysia. “In its stead will be something
that is more programmatically chosen, something that actually delivers more
relevant suggestions.”

Translated as a “tweet,” those 140-character
text-bursts that are the coin of Twitter’s realm, Stone’s statement might have
read: “you hate it; we get it; stand by while we figure out a new
system.”

Controversial right out of the gate when it was introduced
earlier this year, the list was blasted by companies jealous of competitors
that had made the cut, by political watchdogs who claimed it favored Democrats
over Republicans, and by everyday users who felt the tool was superficial in
delivery and undemocratic in design.

“It kind of read like a tabloid list,” said
Sausalito marketing professional Rod Bauer, an early adopter of Twitter.
“It kept changing, but it’s sort of ‘who’s in the news’ with people like
Paris Hilton, as opposed to, say, leaders in stem-cell research or sustainable
farming. Some of these celebrities have PR people blogging for them, so what’s
the point of following someone who’s not even writing their own tweets?”

Some critics likened a place on the list to having Twitter
cut you a check, since more followers equals more traffic to Web sites
mentioned in tweets, which can equal more revenues from on-site ads. One study
showed that a user who made the list gained an average of 53,000 new followers
after a week and 170,000 in the first month.

Fueling the resentment, said Mark Glaser, executive editor
for PBS’s online site MediaShift, was that “you couldn’t tell how anyone
was chosen for the list, and Twitter never explained it. Inside techie people
who had been on Twitter from the start were suddenly passed over for
celebrities and they felt that was unfair to them.”

Actually, Stone did “explain” the process in a
blog post back in March, but it was fairly vague and included the Twitter staff
doing “a gut check.”

Glaser, who has written about the list, said his biggest
complaint “was that Twitter employees were put on it. So you’d see
something like ‘Jenny from Twitter’ has 230,000 followers and you’re thinking
how did that happen?”

On Twitter all day Monday it was Ding-Dong! The list is dead!

“I’m glad,” one user tweeted. “Got stuck with
Kim Kardashian for a week.”

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.