Can I buy a vowel?
The massively popular social media service Twitter announced a new business model today, jointly promoting its formerly free service to “Premium” status and launching a new, but enormously pared down companion service, “Twttr.”
Twttr, which will gradually be made available to users over the next week, has all the benefits of its premium service without any of the hassle: vowels. Yes, that is right. In an unprecedented move, the company has decided to charge us for the letters A,E,I,O and U. Surprisingly, they have opted not to charge for the letter “Y.”
In fact, the team released a statement assuring the pubic that they “believe that ‘Y’ should always be free to everyone—today and forever.”
Twitter made headlines in 2006 when it debuted its already concise communication network, but some say they have taken this one too far. One source claimed, “Twitter has already limited us to 140 characters, and now they’ve taken away vowels too? It’s an issue of free speech—I quit.” Another commenter who asked to remain anonymous had also thrown in the towel, alleging that the forthcoming changes would be too much to bear for her dyslexia. The only visible supporter of the switch was a stenographer.
Twitter counters that the changes that they have made are not intended to be limiting—quite to the contrary. They claim that “going vowelless” will actually expand their restrictive formula and users will have more space to say what’s on their minds without the unnecessary addition of vowels. They hope it will foster a new age of more effective speech, where people are no longer bogged down by clumsy, superfluous letters.
But the controversy doesn’t end there. Twttr is also under fire from various civil rights groups who argue that the switch is not only radical, but discriminatory. Protesting this morning outside Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, they were up in arms about the new developments and said that they feared this could be the beginning of an alarming global shift towards vowelless languages. As Twitter openly admitted in their announcement, the changes would only affect those whose alphabets use Latin characters.
Languages that use other characters would remain unaffected, prompting detractors to claim that a bias was at play.
Both Twitter and Twttr have remained mum on the issue, and representatives from neither company could be reached for comment.
Even amidst such controversy, it seems as though Twitter will continue to launch Twttr as planned. This would not be the first time that a social media service has released a highly contested update—Facebook has become famous for upgrading its interface, much to the chagrin of most of its users. But never before has a social networking company been called out for such discrimination, and although I wasn’t out picketing this morning, I do worry about the implications of such changes. It’s a strange new world out there, when not even vowels are safe.
Before we know it, they’ll start start charging for consonant blends.
Crln Schrr s fndng hr wy n th wrld. Sh s thnkr, drmr, nd n ld sl. Sh njys, bt s nt gd t yg. Sh s n vd swmmr, crsswrd pzzl nthsst nd dg lvr.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta