The approach that many social networks have taken to solve this is to group people into networks and friend lists. Either through self-assignment or you assigning them, people go into different lists. Of course this hurdle is basically a type of boring security configuration that consumers have historically had trouble with.

Twitter’s “follow” model
The amazing thing about Twitter’s model of allowing one-way following is that it adds depth and a couple simple segmentations to your friend list, without needing to do any configuration beyond hitting a button.

With the one-way follow design, you have:

  1. People who follow you, but you don’t follow back
  2. People who don’t follow you, but you follow them
  3. You both follow each other (Friends!)
  4. Neither of you follow each other

Having these 4-tiers of relationships on Twitter is nice – combined with Protected Updates, it creates a nuanced set of definitions, executed with just one button: Follow.

Smart post.

I think I’ve heard @ev before talk about how asymmetric relationships are a very important part of Twitter.

Twitter’s open follower model is one of the main pillars of its rapid rise. Without it, you would be back to essentially Facebook speed. With it, you are never more than one degree of separation removed from anyone:

You can follow someone who’s (more or less) personal thoughts/insights you’d almost never have the opportunity to hear otherwise (celebrity or not), and you might even interact with them via @ replies (it’s not guaranteed but always worth a shot).

That is where Twitter’s power and appeal really stem from. Now add to this the speed of updating, which is itself partially a function of the open follow model, because the larger number of followers/friends subtly compels most to update more (vs. on Facebook, where you somehow don’t want to overload your e.g. 200 friends), which in turn leads to everybody being animated to tweet more due to the social referencing example of their peers, asf.

That’s how you get 1300% growth…