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The case of Twitter's missing followers

The disappearance of a large number of followers from Twitter users' accounts has caused a big uproar in the blogosphere.

Nothing could have caused more uproar in the blogosphere about Twitter than followers suddenly disappearing. We have all complained about and tolerated Twitter's downtime issues, but seemingly losing your hard-earned followers is something that users might not stand for.

In an update on the issue on Twitter's status blog, the company said that they are working on restoring the correct follower/following counts. They go on to say that, "Even after this recovery is complete, your counts may appear lower than previously...The counts we display on your profile page are not always up-to-date...when we remove spammers from the system (which we've been doing a lot lately), the follower counts are not updated in real-time." Even though it's great that Twitter is trying to sort through its problems with spammers, decreasing someone's number of followers is going to cause some backlash if it is not communicated properly. The removal of followers, due to spam, may have even gone unnoticed if it wasn't for this larger issue highlighting it.

Sarah Perez, at ReadWriteWeb, speculates that the problems arose due to a malfunction of the "Twitter anti-spam bot." As you can see in the image above, I lost 13 percent of my Twitter followers in one fell swoop. Other users have reported a drop in followers still as high as 28 percent, although it appears that the problems are being fixed even as we speak.

Even if Twitter is able to fix this problem, it is clear that confidence in the company is shaken. The ever-enthusiastic Louis Gray chimed in, saying, "Every time I think they've captured the market on a single route to failure, they find another way." There is no doubt that Twitter's service is a crowd favorite and everyone is dying to see them succeed and break into the mainstream, but they just keep shooting themselves in the foot with incidents like this. Individually, these sort of problems are tolerable, but when they are all lumped together, like they have been with Twitter, people are not going to stand for it. If Twitter fails, it's not going to be because of other sites like FriendFeed. It's going to be because of themselves.

We just received an update on the situation from Biz Stone, over at Twitter. He writes, "Some users lost followers as a result of an error during a database upgrade. We replaced followers last night and will be replacing followers today. This is not related to the spam initiative we blogged about the other day." At least Twitter is hard at work trying to remedy the situation.