Twitter is five. Can it pay the bills and stay great?

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Happy Birthday, Twitter. Now clean that chimney!

I was in Glasgow's famous Sauchiehall Street on Saturday night. If you haven't been recently, it's like a Hieronymus Bosch painting where the demons wear too-short skirts or G-Star Raw. It's genuinely unpleasant, a seething mass of drunken, vomiting and occasionally fist-fighting imbeciles.

If you need proof that a significant part of the human race is as dumb as rocks, I can give you the postcode to prove it.

Or I can let you see Twitter on my phone.

I like Twitter. It's the anti-Facebook, a social network without Farmville, endless "post this if you care about cancer/alzheimers/cute puppies" chain letters and everybody you've spent twenty years trying to avoid. It's a superb information (and occasionally, misinformation) service, and it's a fantastic place to find interesting conversations and interesting links.

It's also home to some right idiots.

You can avoid real-world idiots by staying away from places like Sauchiehall Street, and until recently you could avoid the Twitter ones too: simply don't follow them, and if anyone you know starts retweeting @peaches_g or @charliesheen, unfollow them, or block them, or hire a hitman to disconnect them permanently. Avoiding idiocy on Facebook isn't easy. On Twitter, it's a doddle.

Or at least, it was a doddle.

Twitter is changing. Like Victorian parents contemplating putting Little Annie up chimneys, Twitter's owners are celebrating the service's fifth birthday by demanding it pays its way.

The best way to do that, it seems, is to make it worse.

Don't get me wrong. I don't expect services to lose money, to provide something useful to people without charging for it. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it, and I worry that Twitter's doing things the wrong way.

There are two developments that worry me. The first is the Quick Bar and the second is the way Twitter is basically telling developers not to write Twitter clients.

The Quick Bar is new to the iPhone app, and it takes the What Dumb-asses Are Tweeting About list, aka Trending Topics, and displays it prominently at the top of the screen. It's hopeless and occasionally offensive: for example on Friday, refreshing Twitter prominently displayed "White People Stink" across the top of my screen.


QUICK BAR: The Quick Bar shows you what's trending, but primarily annoying and irrelevant promoted hashtags

I know why it's there. It's to make sure nobody misses a Promoted Tweet, which Twitter makes money from. But even on a good day, when the Trending list is merely full of stuff I'm not vaguely interested in, I'd rather see an advert. And I'd rather not see racist topics at all.

Still, I could always buy another developer's Twitter client, couldn't I? Not for much longer, it seems. Twitter has essentially said to developers "hey, thanks for all that work you did making us so big and powerful and important and all. Could you go away now, please?" Developers shouldn't make Twitter clients; the ones who already do will be watched very, very carefully.

I know why Twitter's doing that too. They don't want client software that dilutes the Twitter experience, for example by showing ads across the top of the screen instead of White People Stink.

I like Twitter, I really do. But I'm worried by all of this. What makes Twitter brilliant is the range of clients, the available options, the ability to make your Twitter experience as idiot-free as possible.

By making the idiots the important thing, by prioritising their drivel above the things you want to read, and by telling everyone that there must only be One True Twitter client, there's a very real risk of babies and bathwater going out the window together.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.