How early Twitter decisions led to Weiner's downfall

By Steven Levy, WIRED
June 14, 2011 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT) | Filed under: Social Media

Anthony Weiner used Twitter to establish his feisty personality with a nationwide community, but it was also his undoing.

(WIRED) -- Now that the Anthony Weiner Twitter meltdown has pretty much played out, I'm surprised that there hasn't been much discussion of the butterfly wing-flap that brought him down: Twitter's rules of engagement when it comes to "following."

The success of a social network is largely determined by its settings. In 2006, an engineer named Jack Dorsey had an idea for a way for people to share short updates on their lives with friends and family.

Working with a small team, Dorsey and his colleagues began developing and testing the product. This included determining the built-in boundaries of the service, a process which would determine the breadth and purpose of the entire project.

Twitter was a simple idea but settings had to be just right, like the proper temperature for a soufflé.

Should the rules be very restrictive, to preserve privacy and intimacy? (Too much restriction would make the service less useful.) Or should they be expansive, and invite a wide circle to share one's status reports? (Too broad a channel would mean a depersonalized cohort.)

The breakthrough that enabled Twitter to become the wildly successful service it is now came from a twist that was much more significant than even its founders knew: They made it possible to "follow" someone's messages without requiring permission.

Essentially you would take out a subscription to someone's Twitter stream. You would follow your best friend or your brother in the same way you would follow Barack Obama, DeSean Jackson or the New York Times.
Much more at the link and all of it is fascinating.