Well, it looks like Twitter will actually do it.
In an interview with VentureBeat on Thursday, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone elaborated on the company's goal to put out a revenue model before the end of the year. He said that yes, it will involve offering paid accounts to businesses that use the microblogging platform for marketing, customer relations, publicity, and what-have-you. That's something Twitter has been hinting at for about a year now.
There's not a whole lot of detail available. But paid accounts will definitely involve statistics and analytics that aren't available through Twitter's existing application program interface (API), and possibly a whole separate "commercial API" for business-related applications. This adds to a move earlier this year in which Twitter started rolling out an account verification process for prominent users.
In fact, Stone told Marshall, the first test phase of these accounts is already under way with a few companies. Considering Twitter's status as marketing heaven, this is probably a product that will sell quite well. And since Twitter, which has raised $55 million in venture funding, has yet to turn a profit, that's good news.
Marshall points out something important: "It might be hard to tease out who is using the service professionally and who is using it for personal reasons, and then charge them for it. So the idea is to build a set of features that people are willing to pay for." Stone made it pretty clear in the interview that ordinary Twitter users won't be forced to pay up.
Another interesting tidbit: Stone said that Twitter had been looking to acquire social-network aggregator FriendFeed, which was picked up by Facebook earlier this month.