For those who suspect Ashton Kutcher is in fact that annoying guy who won’t leave your party even after everyone else has gone home and you’re rinsing and recycling beer bottles in your pajamas, the confirmation seemed to come Friday.
Officially named “King of Twitter” by Oprah Winfrey, Kutcher (#aplusk on Twitter) accepted his crown the night before when he beat CNN in the race to be the first with 1 million Twitter followers. In honor of his win, Kutcher will donate 10,000 mosquito nets in time for World Malaria Day, and it all seemed like good fun. Then, Guest of a Guest broke the ominous news; Anyone attempting to unfollow Kutcher Friday received the following prompt:
“Whoops! Something went wrong! Please refresh and try again!”
Thankfully, enforced Kutcher following is not what Twitter Chief Executive Evan Williams meant yesterday with his tweet, "Tomorrow just became a very big day.” Many theorized perhaps the microblogging behemoth had found a way to make money, or that Google was about to snap it up. Instead, the “big day” meant Oprah Winfrey placed her Midas touch by featuring Twitter on her show — the same endorsement platform in which best-selling books and beef-boycotting campaigns begin.
With #EV and #aplusk guiding Oprah through her first Tweets, things are definitely changing for Twitter — even if we have yet to figure out what that means.
Alas, our deep contemplation on the future of Twitter was momentarily distracted by the horror that we had all stepped in a big Twitter pile of Ashton Kutcher and he wouldn’t come off our collective shoe.
Technotica placed a frantic call to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone who assured that no, neither #aplusk followers nor CNN got punked. While Stone said he was unaware of the problem until he received Techotica’s message, a check in with the engineers revealed that the sudden attention brought to Kutcher’s account caused a lag between following and unfollowing Kutcher’s Twitter feed.
True enough. You can un-follow Kutcher, you just have to be patient. Technotica and several Technotica associates, all following #aplusk for … um … journalistic and anthropological purposes, attempted just that, got the irritating prompt, and responded in unison: “You refresh Twitter! We have stuff to do! In fact, several of us have successfully graduated high school and aren’t interested in helping the Twitter Prom Queen steal more votes from perpetual, glasses-wearing runner-up CNN.”
Then, later, we breathed a sigh of relief to find we were no longer following #aplusk. Which is good. We have lives and unlike TMZ, it doesn’t have to include Ashton Kutcher … and all other annoying celebrities clogging up Twitter. (Yes, #johncmayer, that means you.) Then, of course, we re-followed Kutcher because … for science.
Anyway, Stone said that while the lag was an unforeseen eventuality, he added that Twitter wasn’t originally imagined as the sort of social network where anyone would acquire 1 million followers. And one might add, on a day when it’s in Oprah’s spotlight, Twitter’s notoriously sensitive infrastructure is holding up.
"We’ve been working on our infrastructure for almost a year,” Stone said. He added that the engineers did pay special attention just in case but, “it actually takes a massive global event to put a blip in traffic. Even attention from Oprah’s audience is something Twitter can handle gracefully.”
With the “Fail Whale” at bay — the screen that you get when the site is down — Twitter has yet to reveal any huge changes some fear. It still doesn’t make money. Everyone who pretends to be sick of hearing about it is still doing just that. Those early Twitter advocates who bemoan celebrities infecting the feed are free to do just that. And as Stone pointed out, the influx of Oprah acolytes won’t change the community, because there is no one community on Twitter to change.
“In reality, there are many different communities on Twitter,” Stone said. “We have big companies like Whole Foods and JetBlue. But that doesn’t stop people from scheduling ‘tweet-ups’ or moms from scheduling car pools. You can still use it any way you want.”
And yes, you can even unfollow Ashton Kutcher … if you want. But you don’t have to. (But you can.)